battle 4–day 3–cucumbers

I mean, did you really think I wouldn’t win cucumbers? Of course I would win cucumbers. I win shit.

I loved the first meal of this week so much, the avocado sandwich, that I had to have it again right away, so last night I kind of went back into battle with the same meal, which I think would be against the rules if I thought about it long enough, but since I already won cucumbers I’m not going to tax my brain too much with the rules. Live a little, Julie. Nevertheless, I did promise to give regular, non-drenched-in-dressing-and-mashed-up-with-cheese-and-avo cukes another chance, so I did that last night, too, right after this totally surreal, alternate universe thing happened:

Formerly-my-Biggest-Supporter-but-Suddenly-in-Danger-of-Becoming-a-Naysayer Melissa R. mentioned to me yesterday that she was thinking about having Pretty-Consistent-Naysayer Jon pick up dinner from one of our favorite watering holes. Historically, when our afternoon e-mails turn to what either of us might be doing about dinner, it usually means one of us is going to feed the other. And since I don’t cook, it almost always means she’s going to feed me. So when Melissa finally got around to saying she wasn’t sure Jon was going to be able to stop for dinner afterall, I offered up avo sandwiches. I was really excited about this. It’s such a rare, rare, rare occasion that we have food in our house, that I’m making dinner, that we have enough to share, etc, etc, etc, that I jumped at the chance to return the favor for the jillion times they’ve cooked us dinner.

But she turned me down flat.

And let me just quote her on why she refused my generous, generous offer: “…that sounds a little too healthy…” A scathing, horrible, awful, mean-spirited comment she refused to take back, even under threat of…well, I mostly just e-shouted obscenities at her. But they were mean! She also pointed out, cruelly, that my new favorite sandwich is, most unfortunately, meatless, which made me think it probably needs bacon.

So while Jon and Melissa were chowing down on fatty deliciousness at their house, I got back to the business of battling cukes at our house. I had three different cucumbers to choose from: the long skinny English ones, recommended to me by my mom; a more regular-sized fattish one; and a smallish, not-too-fat, not-too-skinny one. I decided to use all three.

Before dinner with my new favorite, meatless, healthy sandwich, and for last night’s actual battle, I cut up all the cucumbers and laid them out all pretty-like with my favorite hummus (Sabra, regular or roasted red pepper, you didn’t think I made my own, right? that would require know-how and a food processor, neither of which I have). At the last minute I added pita bread, too, because it’s my house and that’s how we do it at my house. And here’s what happened. I liked it. But that’s not the crazy part. I liked it because of the crunch. Looney. Tunes. And I kind of wanted to just shoot myself a little bit for actually enjoying cucumbers with hummus. I mean, sure, I was victorious and whatnot, but it was kind of bittersweet, because, ugh, I just have such disdain for cucumbers as a concept.

cukes and hummus

Still.

I won. And let’s not forget what’s important here. That’s right. Me winning.


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battle 4–day 2–cucumbers

Cucumbers are boring me. My Monday night cucumber meal was such a success that it really was a hard act to follow with a vegetable as boring as the cucumber. Like, this one time we discovered a vodka made with huckleberries, and I was like, huh, who knew huckleberries were even a real thing? Apparently they are a real thing. But then I thought, could they possibly be any better than they are right here in my hand in this bottle of vodka? And I determined, no, I will never try a huckleberry any other way, they’re perfect just the way they are right here, right now, in vodka. That’s kind of how I feel about my avocado-cucumber sandwich. I just don’t think cucumbers will ever be as awesome anywhere else as they are when combined with my three favorite foods (other than chocolate cake): tomatoes, avocadoes and cheese. Wow.

huck vodka

So in my book, according to my rules, that means I win. I ate them and liked them, more or less. But let’s just say sometime in my life I go to a party or a restaurant or something, and cucumbers are mixed in with a veggie platter or they’re on my salad, or…. this has happened a lot: cucumbers instead of pita bread are served with hummus (why do that?…I like the bread…I’ll even toast it and cut it into triangles for you at my house). So, let’s just say one of those things happens instead of my dream choice, which would be the avo sandwich every time I come within a hundred yards of a cuke. If I refuse or pick around them because, eh, then…I kind of lose. And we can’t have that.

So, ugh, to remedy this most unfortunate situation, last night I went to a Thai place in Decatur on Melissa B.’s recommendation because they had a spicy beef salad bowl with cucumbers and none of my other favorites (well, except tomatoes…and beef, I would say beef is pretty darn near a favorite). At the last minute David suggested I add some sushi just in case I didn’t like the salad. And then we both felt the earth move. What the? Do you think? Do I have to?? And then I….AAAAGH…or maybe it was a AAAACK…..or a GASP (it was more like a gasp)…… I have been ordering sushi sans cucumbers as long as I’ve been eating, sleeping, breathing, loving, devouring, worshipping sushi; is it possible that from here forward I just might be able to, might have to order sushi without saying, “86 the cucumbers”? I stood there stunned. I had never even considered this horrible possibility. I quickly went through my memory bank of items I like but don’t always eat with other foods. Ah, OK, great, here’s a good example: I love peanutbutter. I love steak. And one time I put peanutbutter on a steak. I don’t always do that. In fact, I don’t ever do that, it was just the once and I probably wasn’t sober. Nevertheless, I think what this means is, I don’t have to ever eat cucumbers in sushi. Phew. What a close fucking call.

The spicy beef salad bowl was super boring. The cucumbers didn’t necessarily have a negative impact on the overall taste of the meal, the whole thing was boring, so I can’t really fault them; they’re just guilty by association. So I’m voiding last night’s battle with regular cucumbers and calling a do-over. Mulligan. And I’m going back to the basics since that’s all anyone ever does with this rat bastard vegetable anyway. I’m going to dip it in some hummus, goddammit.

**********UPDATE***********

So,  last weekend, as we were wrapping up cucumber week and heading into zucchini week, I went to a party at Consummate Supporter Christa’s house. The main event of the party was a guacamole competition I’d been looking forward to all summer, mostly because it was my idea, and by “my idea” I mean someone else came up with it and I immediately agreed that we should do it, but also because I make the world’s best guacamole according to me. According to the other competitors and the judges, I make the 6th best guacamole in Decatur.

Here’s where I think the judges went wrong. They were drunk. Christa found this awesome, awesome organic cucumber vodka and contributed it to cucumber week, knowing that would win them for sure, because how can a cucumber ever be more perfect than when it’s in vodka (?), and we devoured it.

Cucumbers+vodka+asshole judges=skewed results. I demand a re-vote.

cuke vodka

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battle 4–day 1–cucumbers

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.

cuke mess

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.

cuke sammich

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


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