Although my newfound love for tomatoes precipitated my interest in learning about other vegetables, it was really one meal I had a few weeks ago at my favorite restaurant, Watershed, that catapulted this whole project into being. Watershed makes the most amazing vegetable plate and during the summer it is usually filled with delicious Southern foods like fried okra and creamed corn, the only vegetables I ate before a few weeks ago. The project-catapulting veggie plate included two slices of tomato (seriously, the best in the universe), fried okra (also the best in the universe…maybe the galaxy…which is bigger? I think the universe…should of paid closer attention in 5th grade science…my husband the-space-freak is going to hate this side note), some other deliciousness I can’t remember right now, and butterbeans. I had never had butterbeans before, but these looked all creamy and fatty, and they were probably soaked in some heart-attack-in-a-vat ham product, plus they’re called butterbeans, not lima beans (ugh, ack, gross), so I couldn’t help but try them and then obviously lick my plate clean. It was after reporting this incident, of which I was most proud, to 200 of my closest friends on Facebook, and sorting through the various responses about how lame my diet is, including one rather vulgar response from my Mom (way to go with the foul mouth, Preacher Mom), that I got the idea to soak every other vegetable in the (what’s bigger than a universe? I really don’t know….) world (seems OK to just stick with what I can get from here for now) in hamhock and see how it goes.
Today, I went back to Watershed for lunch and broke the rules again. I got the vegetable plate, which thank god had fried okra, creamed corn, sliced tomato and cornbread (that really should be enough, right?), but it also had green beans and black eyed peas. Those are pretty far down on the list, like, I’m not even thinking about having to gag on those right now. I mean, this is pepper week. But I have a special affection for Watershed and their fatty, meaty vegetables, so…I…tried…them. The beans and the peas. Beans and peas weeks are going to be hard. I’m not saying they’ll win, I’ll win, but not without a lot of effort.
The best suggestions I’ve gotten throughout this project have been process-oriented, like not making veggies the main feature of my meal, and although I think peppers seem like a good veggie to test drive that suggestion, I’ve got basically no ideas. The best I can come up with are fajitas and pizza (I think I’m going to default to pizza a lot). I’ve also had no fewer than four people offer to make stuffed peppers this week (Supporter Melissa R. wins this one; she made her family recipe sound most appealing and even though the project’s biggest naysayer also lives under her roof, he’s probably the one who will have to do most of the cooking, so who’s naysaying now, sucka???), so that’s a couple of nights, but otherwise peppers are stumping me. I want something awesome!
Because I didn’t go to the grocery store or farmer’s market Sunday, I wasn’t really ready last night, and because Mondays suck, I wasn’t in the mood to go to the grocery store or farmer’s market yesterday either, so I didn’t. We went out. I could pretend I wanted to start this week off with a bang and have an expert cook my very first pepper (er, second) to get me started off right, but really I was just lazy. We went to Mezcalito’s Cantina in Oakhurst in search of fajitas. It turns out Mezcalito’s is more Spanish-Venezuelan-Cuban fusion than it is Mexican or Tex-Mex, so I was shit out of luck on fajitas. I panicked for about a minute because now that meant I would have to actually order something with peppers in it and I wasn’t going to be guaranteed to appreciate the other things on the plate the way I knew I would with fajitas (meat). Fuck me and my laziness. I studied the menu intently, considering items with peppers, ruling out items with peppers, salivating over the chicken special that did not contain peppers, and finally settling on something with a Spanish name I didn’t recognize that was served on top of poblano pepper mashed potatoes. At the very least, I could scrape off whatever was on top and just eat the mashed potatoes.
!!!!! It was beef!!!!! The Spanish name I didn’t recognize and didn’t write down and isn’t on the Web site was beef! Beef shoulder actually. It was awesome. And the poblano pepper mash was excellent, too. I want us all to just take a minute to sit with this: I had meat and potatoes for my first pepper meal.
This project rules.