Food historian Waverley Root wrote that the cucumber is “about as close to neutrality as a vegetable can get without ceasing to exist.” On the other hand, I have also been chastened for poo pooing cucumbers because they’re basically water, and water is the essence of life, and what do you have against life, Julie?? Although they arrive at their conclusions from different vantage points, Waverley Root and my naysayers’ messages are not dissimilar: the cucumber is an utterly useless nonfood.
Before I began the cucumber battle I begged my friends on Facebook to help me with this stupid list item. Many, many thanks to those of you who gave me good suggestions, because I had no idea what to do. I’ve only ever seen cucumbers in finger sandwiches and on veggie platters, and then most recently in an excerpt from the Julie/Julia Project blog when Julie was struggling with the fact that Julia Child baked them. This meant nothing to me (why can’t you bake cucumbers?).
The good thing about cucumbers being a stupid food is that most things you make with cucumbers are easy, and tonight I made the easiest meal I’ve made yet, avocado pita sandwiches, because all it involved was chopping, dicing, tossing and stuffing. I didn’t have to cook, bake, grill, boil, broil, roast, sauté or otherwise heat anything, which means I didn’t overcook, undercook, burn or ruin dinner just because “hot and fast” is not a recognized direction in most cookbooks.
I found the avo sandwich recipe on Sunday when I was looking for meal ideas (it was originally from the LA Times Cookbook), but as is usually the case with these things, it had a bunch of crap in it I either can’t or won’t eat, or veggies that are way farther down on the list and can’t be incorporated at this time, due to my strict adherence to the rules. So I improvised. I’m including the original with my modifications here:
- 1 avocado, halved and peeled
- 1/2 cup chopped cucumber (I probably didn’t really use a 1/2 cup…baby steps…also, I peeled them, everyone told me to and I’m glad I did)
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots (Eh, I didn’t use the carrots, I don’t dislike carrots, I just didn’t see how they were going to add much to my masterpiece, so I nixed them)
- 1/2 cup chopped cauliflower (Ihaven’t done cauliflower yet, so I ignored it)
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I’m not sure I used quite half a cup, I didn’t really measure anything, but I was excited to eat mushrooms again)
- 1/2 cup cubed Monterey Jack cheese (When they said “Monterey Jack,” I’m pretty sure what they meant was “Extra Sharp White Cheddar,” because cheddar makes everything better)
- 1/4 cup bottled Italian dressing
- 4 pita breads
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (I never got around to the lemon juice)
- 1/2 cup chopped tomato (I didn’t measure this either, I just used one whole tomato)
Dice half the avocado. Reserve other half.
Gently toss diced avocado, cucumber, mushrooms, and cheese with Italian dressing.
Slit pita breads and separate halfway around by pulling edges apart to form a pocket. Fill each with 1/4 of the mixture.
(I toasted the pita bread. Hey, look, I did heat something and didn’t burn down the house. Success!)
Mash remaining avocado with fork and stir in and tomato. Spoon inside each sandwich.
Pure deliciousness. And by far the prettiest, most colorful dinner so far. We’re on an upswing.
As my project evolves (let me just take a super long parenthetical side note here to say what a remarkable coincidence it is that I turned 30 and decided to finally confront the demonic vegetables that have ruled my whole life, and write about it, on a blog, and call it a project, around the same time as the movie Julie & Julia hit theaters…and how fucking coincidental that we’re both named Julie…frankly, it’s an awesome name and I bet she has great hair, too), I’m finding it necessary to tweak the rules a little bit:
- Even though most of the best suggestions have been to make my vegetables as a side item or some secondary event on my plate, I really need recipes that incorporate veggies into the main feature so I’m not stuck making some elaborate salad and then still have to figure out what to do for dinner; I know some of you mouse-y, rabbit-like eaters out there can eat salad for dinner and be happy as clams, and fuck you for it, but A) cucumbers in vinegar does not a meal make, and B) I’m used to a hearty diet of meat and potatoes, so I need something that’s going to stick to my bones. So this isn’t a tweaked rule, this is a new rule. Vegetables need to be a part of dinner somehow, otherwise dinner doesn’t happen and we starve.
- The biggest rule I’m reconsidering is the one that says when I like something Day 1, I should be able to eat whatever I want the rest of the week, but I’ve been so excited by all the awesome suggestions and fabulous interweb recipes that I’m seriously considering reevaluating this rule. I mean, I still have to eat dinner every other night of the week and I’ve slowly, slowly come to terms with the fact that popcorn and beer also do not a meal make (news that will seriously depress my mother). So eating cucumbers two nights in a row, even though I didn’t hate them tonight would be a tweaked rule. Or an abandoned rule. I don’t know yet.