Category Archives: Picky Eating With Pookie

Picking Eating With Pookie: Special Earth-Shattering Edition!!!

Three years ago I embarked on the “Picking Eating With Pookie” project, where I’d try veggies from the garden and the farm and then report back on my experiences. I made some progress (I’m quite fond of string beans roasted with potatoes, I love wilted greens like chard in with my pasta, and I periodically find myself contemplating how tasty garden carrots can be) but there are still some major hurdles. One of the highest hurdles is beets. Cooked spinach is still tops on my list of things I hate, but that’s not usually a problem, since it’s not often on the menu at Maple Hoo. Beets are. Boomer and Schnookie just loooooove their beets. And they can’t. Stop. Talking. About. Them. From the first beet of the season until the last, it’s just all “ooh, beets are the best”, “beets are nature’s candy”, “I want to marry these beets”. Blah blah barf.

This weekend was no different. Schnookie declared on Friday that she was going to make quinoa with shredded beets to go along with Sunday’s dinner. While she and Boomer waxed on about how great the beets would be, all I could think was, “What the fuck?! You can’t waste quinoa by filling it with beets!! That’s sacrilege!” Schnookie was all, “Oh, no worries, you can pick the beets out.” I wasn’t buying it, but I didn’t say anything.

Well, I didn’t say anything until Sunday night when Schnookie was prepping dinner. She had the unmitigated gall to point out how beautiful the shredded beets were. Well, I never! I may have overreacted out of despair that delicious Rancho Gordo quinoa was going to waste, but I think I said something like, “I hope those beets rot in hell!” That led to a little veggie-hate-filled tiff that I wasn’t proud of, but that I certainly wasn’t going to back down from. I mean, for heaven’s sake, these were beets we were talking about! The lead up to dinner was terrible. Everyone was cranky, the weather was muggy, the view from the grill is depressing. It was a bad scene.

So I was not in the greatest of moods when I found myself standing next to the kitchen counter when the serving bowl of beet-red quinoa, spiced with sumac and cumin, was placed before me. I peered at it. A-ha! Just as I suspected! Shredded beets were not something that would easily be picked out of a quinoa dish! Schnookie’s a liar! A dirty, beet-loving liar! But… The closer I looked at how indistinguishable the beet shreds were from the quinoa, the more I noticed that it was a giant bowl of delicious, delicious quinoa. I love quinoa. It manages to be mushy like mashed potatoes, but also a little crunchy like popcorn, and never too nutty. Mmmm, quinoa. Quinoaaaaaa…

I couldn’t resist! I had to take a little nibble! I carefully chose a tiny bit that definitely didn’t have a beet on it. And it was phenomenal. So… I took another bite. And it was also phenomenal. It tasted like some heavenly combination of southwestern and Indian cooking. Without thinking, I went back in for more. And without realizing it, I took a bite that had beets in it. I had to admit, I couldn’t tell what was beet and what was quinoa. I couldn’t tell what was gross and what delicious. Could it be… the beet wasn’t gross?!

Next thing I knew, I was loading my plate up with beetstuffs.

If you thought the planet seemed to shift around 7:45 pm today, now you know why. Picking-Eating Pookie willingly ate beets.

Color Pookie Shocked

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A Picky Eating Revelation

It was about a year ago that I concocted the plan to partake of a project called “Picky Eating With Pookie”. The idea was to try every vegetable that we grew in the garden or that Schnookie brought home from the farm share. I meant to do an end-of-season review of the experiment but… I’m lazy, what can I say? I got ruminating about it today, though, and made an interesting discovery about my motivations for the project and how that effected the outcome.

Around this time last year I was emerging from a long Holiday-inspired hibernation. It was the end of January and I realized that my days consisted of getting up, sitting in the car for an hour, sitting in front of my computer at work for eight hours, sitting in the car for another hour, and then immediately upon getting home, sitting down on the couch for another six hours. Thanks to Schnookie, I never had to get up to make dinner, and thanks to Boomer there were never nights that I had to change the routine to run errands after work. It was just five days in a row of sitting, sitting, and more sitting. I began to worry that I’d never leave my hibernation period and I’d just get more and more tired. My commutes would get harder and harder as I struggled to stay awake. This was not good. I had tried incorporating a daily walk around the neighborhood after work, but in the Winter it’s too dark after work and I could always find a bad weather excuse to skip a day. I needed something I could do inside, regardless of weather. Something that didn’t take much time. Something fun.

Then I remembered the exercise routine a friend had recommended a few years ago: The Shovelglove. It’s simple. You get a sledgehammer and then spend fourteen minutes a day to use the sledgehammer to mimic movements like “shoveling snow”, “churning butter”, and “driving fenceposts”. I had tried it during grad school and enjoyed it, but had ultimately stopped because I was trying to fit it in before classes and because I had decided it was going to make me lose weight. I hated getting up early and it did not make me lose weight. This time around I said, “Don’t be a fool, Pookie! Know ahead of time you won’t do it first thing in the morning, and don’t expect to lose weight! Instead — use it as a tool to give you something to do when you get home that doesn’t involve sitting! It’ll be fun! You’ll have more energy to spend on stitching and blogging and enjoying your evening!” That seemed like a goal I could get behind!

Pookie, Dapper

Me and my shovelglove.

I know all the experts give advice for New Year’s Resolutions that you should always, always, always set quantifiable goals. Don’t say, “I’m going to exercise.” Say, “I’m going to run a 5K by September.” Don’t say, “I’m going to use the kitchen more.” Say, “I’m going to cook dinner once a night every month.” Well, I say, bah humbug! My decision to shovelglove with the intention of fulfilling the goal of “having more energy” was perfect for this reason: when I failed, I didn’t feel bad for failing — I felt bad because I knew I wouldn’t have the get and go to stitch or blog or stay up for the late hockey game or to drive to work without my eyelids drooping the whole way. And when I suceeded, I didn’t feel good because I had done my exercizing duty — I felt good because I was engaging in an activity that wasn’t a chore, but rather was part of my evening full of hobbies and fun!

I realized today that I had inadvertently taken the same approach with Picky Eating. The idea had come to me not because I was worried that I wasn’t eating healthily enough. It came to me because I had spent all day looking at pictures of garden-fresh produce on Skippy’s Garden. I had some serious Spring Fever and for some bizarre reason, this manifested itself entirely in wanting to eat a carrot. I began to associate everything that was good about the garden and farm during Spring and Summer with what I thought carrots tasted like. When the first produce came home from the farm in the form of snap peas, I didn’t see “peas that will be a healthier snack that chips”. I saw “snack that is imbued with farm-y goodness that you can only get now because it’s Spring, whereas those chips will always just taste like chips and you can have them all year round”. If I tried the snap peas and didn’t like them, I wouldn’t have thought I failed in my attempts to eat healthier. I would have let myself down by robbing myself of one more opportunity to enjoy the fact that it was finally Spring.

Something about taking that approach made it so that the experiment was, at least by my (admittedly low) standards, a raging success. The reason I know it’s a raging success? This dinner:

February 3 2009

Schnookie IM’ed me during the day to say, “I’m making chicken sandwiches tonight, and I’m going to serve a side of potatoes and green beans.” And I thought, “Ooh! Green beans!” That’s right. I looked forward to eating green beans. I was shocked. And pleased. And then I thought, “Uh-oh. What if I look at the plate and I’m still a picky eater? What if I think I want them now, but when I’m faced with actually eating them, I balk?” Girding myself, I entered the kitchen at dinner-plating time. As I walked in, Schnookie took the tray of roasting potatoes and green beans out of the oven and put it on the counter. My fears? Totally unfounded. I looked at the beans and without contemplating them at all thought, “Yummy!” I reached right out, plucked a bean from the tray, and popped it in my mouth. And it was tasty! I was able to load my plate up with scoops from the tray without having to pick around the green stuff.

This is a huge step, Gentle Reader. HUGE. So huge, in fact, that in addition to putting lettuce, tomato, and red onion on my sandwich I also added sprouts.

Maybe you didn’t hear that last part. I’ll repeat: sprouts.

OK, so it was a pinch of sprouts, but it was sprouts nonetheless. Sprouts are so low on my list of veggies I thought I liked that I had in fact completely forgotten there was such a thing as sprouts. Turns out, they’re tasty! They give a nice bright crunch to the sandwich and don’t really taste disgusting at all! Who knew?

Anyway, the reason I was thinking about it today was that I had my annual physical. The doctor informed me that my bad cholesterol was a teensy tiny bit high when they ran my bloodwork in September.

Me: Well, I’ve been working on eating more vegetables.

Doctor: Great! Let’s run that bloodwork again and see if it worked!

Me: Uh… Heh. Well, it’s a work in progress. Sadly, I don’t think looking at a tray of green beans and thinking, ‘Those look tasty!’ has a very immediate effect on my cholesterol.

Doctor: No, probably not.

But that’s just the thing! I wasn’t eating more veggies to get healthier! I was eating them because I wanted them to be something that I like. And now? They are! (Well, some of them are. Whenever I try to tell Schnookie that I think I’m doing much better she mentions broccoli and I throw up a little in my mouth and realize I’m not as far along as I thought.)

Without realizing it at the time, I framed Picky Eating in a fail-proof manner! And now, here I am a year later, putting sprouts on my sandwich and thinking happy thoughts about Spring when the first snap peas come home from the farm!

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Picky Eating With Pookie: Beets, Beets, Butter Beets

What did I swear when I started writing Picky Eating with Pookie? That’s right, I swore no beets. Hold on to yer hat, Gentle Reader, but tonight? I ate a beet. Two beets! OK, fine, more like two infinitesimal bites of beet, which added up made one small bite of beet. But that’s one small bite of beet more than I was planning to eat this calendar year! The thing is, dinner just looked so delicious tonight.

October 9 2008

Chicken roasted with potatoes (fingerlings from our garden), farm shallots, and garlic (the German White that won our taste test) — it was Autumn served up on the table! So standing there, taking in the insanely delicious aromas, looking at a tray of beets and turnips, I thought, “Well, I suppose I could try a little one.” I mean, look at them! Even the most staunch beet-hater (i.e. me) couldn’t resist.

Beets and Turnips

I asked Schnookie and Boomer which little beet morsel (beetsel?) would be the best. Schnookie directed me to a teensy, tiny bit of Cylindra, one of the few beets on the tray that we grew. I admit, I closed my eyes tight while bringing the fork to my mouth since I’m still very attuned to thinking beet-colored veggies are nasty. I may also have kept my eyes scrunched shut while chewing. I may also have decided, while chewing, that it wasn’t half bad. I may also have decided it was the most disgusting thing ever.

But… Since I took another when offered to me during dinner, I guess I can’t pretend that I find beets the most reprehensible vegetable on Earth. Both bites tasted like Fall. Buttery, buttery Fall. They tasted like what I remember carrots tasting like back when I was a kid and didn’t yet hate carrots. They tasted… almost good. I think it’s an “almost good” that I need to work up to. I think liking beets is a reachable goal, but it might take a few years. I was shocked to discover that they weren’t cooked in butter. They tasted like if Orville Reddenbocher made Blast O’ Butter Beets, only they were roasted in just a splash in olive oil. It’s like nature’s candy, if butter were officially (and correctly) classified as “candy”.

Based on this Picky Eating experiment, I’m not going to be ordering beets as my birthday dinner just yet, but I will confidently say that peas just pulled ahead in the race for the most disgusting vegetable on Earth.

(Also, I ate a turnip. It was also quite tasty. Just as an aside.)

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Picky Eating With Pookie: Mean Green Bean

The middle of August marks a big pick-up in the PYO department at the farm. To Schnookie it signals a time for getting more bang for her CSA buck (as well as an extra hour or two a week spent toiling in the fields). For me it should signal that we’re getting closer to a massive sauce tomato haul, but in all honesty, when I hear “PYO” I think “oh no — it’s the dreaded green bean”.

Here’s the thing, Gentle Reader, I love beans. I love baked beans, bean burritos, refried beans, bean chili, bean salad, beans in stew, beans in soup, beans and rice, bean cakes… I could go on and on. So really, I shouldn’t fear the green bean. I mean, it’s got the word “bean” right in its name! For some strange reason, though, I don’t hear “green bean“. I hear “green bean”. And what have we learned about Picky Eating Pookie? Greens are the enemy. (Except for chard, which I’ve come to discover is actually pretty darn good.) Moreover, because they’re shaped like snap peas (sort of) my brain skips the bean part, zeroes in on the green and then thinks pea. Nasty, nasty pea. It’s a recipe for madness, I tell ya!

It follows, then, that when Schnookie brought home a heaping basket of green beans late last week, I was not thrilled. Of course, I had to admit to myself that green beans are one of those veggies I’ve sworn to hate but which I haven’t tried in ages. I wasn’t being fair to the green bean or myself. So when Schnookie steamed some to go along side a BLT, I tried one. And it was… Okay. Not great. But I had a second one, so it couldn’t have been that bad. I didn’t have a third. So it wasn’t really that good, either. It didn’t taste like a bean, but it didn’t taste like greens either. You probably won’t be surprised to discover it didn’t taste like a pea either, but that did kind of shock me. The upshot of that adventure in picky eating was that I was confident I could continue to say green beans weren’t high on my list of favs.

Then Schnookie threw me a curve ball. A dastardly, dastardly curve ball. As part of her Project Things That Grow In Season Together Taste Good Together, she grilled up some green beans with some farm ‘n’ garden potatoes (the grill didn’t quite cook them fast enough, so they got some roasting action applied to them, too). This seemed to me a perfectly stupid way to ruin some awesome potatoes. Those things don’t grow on trees, you know! I could’ve taken myself off the hook, having previously fulfilled my Picky Eating With Pookie duties. But… [In a tiny voice:] They looked good. So I ate one.

The following dialog ensued:

Adventurous Pookie: Yummy!
Picky Pookie: Are you crazy?! That’s a green bean!
AP: I know! But it’s tasty!
PP: It’s a green bean. A green bean! It’s digusting!
AP: I dunno, Picky. It’s actually almost… sweet. I think I need another.
PP: Wait! There’s a potato on your fork, too! Don’t ruin that precious bite of potato with a green bean! [Tries to knock the fork out of AP’s hand.]
AP: Hey! That’s my food! My tasty, tasty food!
PP: Ick!
AP: [Savors the mingling seasonal tastes of fresh potato and green bean] You don’t get it, Picky. This is remarkable. The same green bean that tasted tired and bland yesterday is now sweet and buttery. Something about that grilling and roasted completely transformed it.
PP: Yes, but it’s green. We both know things that are green are nasty.
AP: Oh, that’s not true. What about pistachios?
PP: You don’t like pistachios.
AP: No, you don’t like pistachios. I like how smooth their nutty flavor is. So there.
PP: Oh yeah? Fine. Pistachios. All other green things tasty nasty.
AP:What about M&Ms? And tomitillo salsa. And mint chocolate chip ice cream. Those are green!
PP: Not white mint chocolate chip ice cream. That’s not green.
AP: Whatever, Picky. Whatever. Leave me alone. I’m busy making sure I have enough green beans on my plate so that I don’t have to eat a potato without one.
PP: I don’t know who you are anymore.

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Picky Eating With Pookie, Vol. 2: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

It’s been a while since the first installment of Picky Eating With Pookie, but don’t worry, Gentle Reader, I haven’t been completely neglecting my taste testing duties. I have a few things to report on the Picky Eating front.

The Good: Baby Chard

When the baby chard came home from the farm I thought, “Oh no. Cooked greens.” Chard has always seemed like an especially nasty member of the cooked green family. The leaves look big and tough, and the name “chard” sounds like it should be scraped off the walls of the fireplace. Not cool. But Schnookie found a deceptive way to serve it: in pasta with scape pesto with grape tomatoes. It’s like she knows all my weaknesses! Even more than that, though, she only made enough chard for her bowl, serving me a chardless dish. Because I don’t take my Picky Eating duties lightly, I made sure to ask for a bite of hers, fully preparing to gack it down and then relievedly go back to my less green, more pasta-colored bowl. The problem was, it was tasty. The flavor wasn’t the mineral-y spinach flavor I was expecting. Instead it just tasted… Well, for lack of a better description, it tasted like it was good for me. In a good way. It tasted like my liver was saying, “Ahhhh… Something besides beer, cheese, and pizza grease!” Suddenly my less green, more pasta-colored bowl looked depressingly dour. Fortunately, the farm has a lot of baby chard to go around, so this dish was served up several more times. I won’t lie and say I ate every bit of chard on my plate, but I’d still give it four stars out of five*.

*(I don’t doubt that the powerful scape pesto contributed a great deal to my liking the baby chard. Between the toothy noodles and the grape tomatoes, the chard was never the dominate element of any single bite of dinner.)

The Bad: Beets

OK, that “The Bad” is a little misleading — I didn’t actually try these beets. I hear they’re excellent, but here’s the deal: beets scare me. They’re so meaty looking. They look like they taste dark, and thick, and heavy. I’ve also tried a few the last few years and they’ve always tasted like dark, thick, heavy steam no matter how they’re cooked. My freshman year roommate at NYU used to steam broccoli all the time and I grew to really dislike the smell of steamed veggies. Beets look like they taste like someone injecting the smell of steamed veggies directly into my brain. For this reason I’m holding out on the beets until there are some from our garden. The first year of the garden we grew Chioggia beets. The red-and-white spiral bull’s-eye beets don’t look dark, thick, and heavy. They look like candy! I would say this is a violation of the Picky Eating With Pookie rules, but I make the rules so no Farm beets! (I should also point out that Beet Night is Wednesday when I’m at work. Schnookie cooks up some beets to snack on while I slave away at the library. So even if I wanted them I’m out of luck. Because Schnookie could never prepare them on another night, shut up!)

The Ugly: Corn

For a Jersey girl, I’m pretty conflicted when it comes to corn. I’m a big fan of it when it’s a supporting member of the cast, like if it’s in a black bean/red onion/corn salsa, or if it’s in a hearty soup or chili. But thanks to hating shucking it as a child (I’m a wimp and hated pulling off the husks and finding big mealy worm things) and thanks to not liking how messy corn on the cob is, I’ve never been a big fan of corn on its own. Even when we grew it in the garden and could eat fresh corn literally five minutes after it was picked, I was still a little underwhelmed. Boiled corn has, in the past, tasted a little too mushy, a little too wet, a little too dull for me.

This has been a-okay with the other members of the house. For all that Boomer and Schnookie try to encourage me on the picky eating front, the one thing they leave suspiciously alone is my disinterest in corn. This is the time of year when Schnookie will stop on her way home from work and pick up a few ears to be served cut off the cob and slathered with butter as a side dish to whatever’s for dinner. I’ve been content to let Boomer and Schnookie split the corn haul in half, much to their delight. Boomer, in particular, loves her some corn. If you look outside when she’s taking the cobs to the compost, you’ll see her gnawing on them to get every last bit of corny goodness out of them.

Thursday night, though, I decided I should try the corn again, my annual summer admittance that I live in Jersey and should therefore eat corn. I was stunned to discover that it wasn’t the dull flavor I remembered. This corn was bright and sunny and buttery and delicious. It wasn’t too mushy, but it also wasn’t the tough on-the-cob stuff I remembered getting stuck in my teeth when I was little. It was deeeelicious, five stars out of five! Boomer and Schnookie? Were not pleased to have to share with me last night. If my corn renaissance continues, things could get ugly.

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Picky Eating With Pookie: Oh Snap!

This summer I’m proud to present an IPB Living exclusive presentation of Picky Eating With Pookie. You see, Gentle Reader, I am a picky eater. For all this talk of veggie gardening and CSA farms, I have long maintained that I don’t really like most vegetables. Tomatoes, potatoes, and onions never really counted as vegetables to me, so they’ve always been on the a-okay list. Lettuce was iffy for a while, but with enough croĆ»tons and dressing it could be made palatable. Thanks to a summer spent in Santa Fe, I discovered beans and peppers should be considered candy, not veggies. Everything else? Nasty. Nasty, nasty, nasty. I pick the peas out of every pot pie Schnookie makes; I carefully eat around the carrots in soups; I refuse to even go near any dish containing sweet potatoes; I break out in hives when confronted with cooked greens.

A very strange thing happened, though, when I started going stir-crazy for the garden and farm this early-Spring. I started to think about how great a carrot grown from the garden would taste. Now, I’ve never been good at verbalizing what exactly is wrong with the veggies I don’t like, so when called on why I don’t like peas or carrots, I’m usually left spluttering, “Just ‘cuz, okay! Get off my back about the peas and carrots!” So when I started salivating over this mythical carrot, I realized that I could sort of remember what carrots taste like and nowhere in that taste memory was an element I could put my finger on hating. It occurred to me that my inability to explain why I hate vegetables might work in my favor. Maybe my vegetable cortex, or whatever part of the brain determines which nutritious foods I’ll like, is a blank slate. Maybe I could start from scratch. Maybe I could try one of every vegetable that comes from the garden or the farm! Maybe I’d learn to love the foods that are good for me!

Picky Eating With Pookie will document this ambitious re-learning of vegetables. I don’t have high hopes. I suspect I’ll still dislike beets and string beans as much in September as I do now, but dagnabbit, I’m going to give it an honest effort! I will give each and every vegetable a fair shake — with two exceptions. Cooked spinach ain’t happening. Raw baby spinach? Awesome. Cooked, wilted, mineral-y, limp, chewy, stringy spinach will never taste good to me, even if you lobotomized my vegetable cortex. Also, I hate cooked peas. I can verbalize that I dislike their tinny, slimy, smelly, noxious little pea-ish selves. No cooked peas.

Because cooked peas are so vile, I was a little wary of the first Picky-Eating-eligible crop of the season:

Snap Peas.

Snap Peas.

Sounds pea-ish.

As I stared down the barrel of the snap pea, I thought back to earlier this Spring when I daringly tried edamame from the local sushi place, and asparagus from the local farm stand. Both were surprisingly delicious. “Maybe,” I thought, “I’m on a roll!” I reached out for the snap pea Schnookie had picked especially for me. As my shaking fingers closed around it I thought, “Or maybe it’ll taste like a pea! Peas are the devil’s food!” Still, I had made a promise to myself and I wasn’t going to give up before I got started (good thing the first farm crop this year wasn’t cooked spinach). So I ate it.

The taste sensation of eating a just-picked snap pea starts with a very satisfying crisp crunch that led directly into a burst of bright, fresh liquidness. It tasted, well, like a crisp, bright, fresh Summer day. However, if then transitioned into a slightly stringy toothiness that was tinged with more than a little pea-flavor. The aftertaste was just enough eau du pea that I hesitated before taking a second helping. But take a second helping I did. I’m hoping that I can convince myself that the pea aftertaste is the essence of shelling pea pods, which for some strange reason is a chore I think (in concept) I’d enjoy in a down-home, newer-better-life-as-a-gardener way.

I stopped after two pods, but the verdict on snap peas is 3 1/2 stars out of 5. I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to eat a big bowl of them, but should they appear in a dish on my plate, I’d probably eat several. And for a picky eater, sometimes that’s all you can ask. Tune in as the season progresses, as I tackle such vegetables as carrots, beets, string beans, and more!

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