waxing philosophical–the twilight zone

I’m done with zucchinis, I won, and so the rules say I can have the rest of the week to wax philosophical about whatever I want. Someone suggested I use this time to talk about my addiction to expensive dresses and designer jeans, but I resent the implication that my purchasing habits at my favorite Decatur boutique, Boogaloos, are a problem; I’m merely being patriotic to my country and my president—who is also my boyfriend, if you must know—in these tough economic times by supporting my local economy. You’re welcome, economy.

But this is a vegetable blog and so that’s what I’m going to wax about matter-of-factly, if not philosophically.

We’re five weeks in to the project and here’s where we stand so far: Julie—5, vegetables—0.

  • Squash, in
  • Mushrooms, in
  • Peppers, in
  • Cucumbers, in
  • Zucchini, in

Last night, as I stood at my kitchen counter eating fried zucchini for the third night in a row (while considering returning the deep fryer to Lauren), I looked at the dinner spread in front of me and took stock of my life. What has happened to me? Seriously. I was very happily, too happily, eating a plate of fried zucchini, farm-fresh cucumbers with cheese and crackers, and home-grown tomatoes, but not a lick of meat.
What. The. Fuck. And not only that, I had gone out of my way after work to stop at both a farmer’s market and the grocery store to put this little app plate together just for me because David left a day early for our vacation. So I A) put effort into preparing a meal all by myself for myself, B) it’s not cake, and C) it was basically all vegetables.

We’re living in the Twilight Zone at my house. Aliens have invaded my body. Somebody save me from myself and bring me some bloody meat.

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become an fb fan

Thanks to all of you who are being so kind about this project. And maybe not so kind. And I apologize for telling the salad eaters to fuck off. Kind of.

For those of you who keep asking me to tell you when I’ve updated the site because you have better things to do than check 40 times a day to see if I vomited the night before but are still more or less kind of interested in watching this train wreck, I created a page on Facebook where I will post updates, and Facebook will tell you so I don’t have to.

To become a fan, click here; or click on the “become an fb fan” link on the left; or on Facebook, search Julie vs. Vegetables. Then click “become a fan” at the top of the page. It’s so easy my mom could do it. Mom, do it.

battle 3–peppers

I went to a cookout Friday and put this whole project to its first major test: one of the vegetables I’ve supposedly added to my diet permanently was on the menu…and I ate it. And it was great. And it was only Week 2! It’s working! We had kabobs on the grill, which fortunately had a ton of red meat on them, and they were colorfully decorated with mushrooms and red, green and yellow peppers. And onions. I ignored the onions, of course. New Naysayer Chad is convinced he can get onions on the list or trick me into eating them (which is absolutely against the rules). Silly, deluded Naysayer Chad. And hipster Tom. And Mellow Dad. Onions are out. You lose.

Back in the real world, I excitedly enjoyed the mushrooms, and I inaugurated pepper week early by cutting a grilled red pepper into tiny little squares and nibbling on it carefully, fearful it would scorch my mouth (aren’t peppers supposed to be hot?). But I liked it. I haven’t determined yet what this means for red peppers, like if I’ve committed some major transgression against the project by breaking the rules and battling the red pepper two days early, if I still need to incorporate them into this week since I already know I like them, or what, but I know I’m going to have trouble with green peppers, so I’m going to concentrate more on them and worry about my departure from the rules with the red pepper later (I blame it on the vast amounts of tequila I consumed before dinner and the fact that my dinner companions dared me…even though they knew peppers were on deck for this week and I would get around to all of them eventually…naysayers and rulebreakers!).

Even though I had a relatively successful week with mushrooms, I did also learn two more valuable lessons from the parts I flubbed:

  1. My inability to cook could possibly hinder my total victory over some vegetables. For one thing, because I don’t know where shit is at the farmer’s market or grocery store I wound up completely abandoning the mushroom risotto last week (does anyone know what Arborio rice is or where to find it at the store?). The other thing is, unless recipes or instructions specifically say to dig out all that weird looking stuff under the mushroom and cut the stalk-y bit down to the very nub, I’m not going to know to do that, and then my portabella is going to fill up with oil and catch on fire, which it did. Spectacularly. So, if you send me recipes or ideas–and please keep them coming, I need them–assume you are working with someone who has the culinary skills of a nine-year-old.
  2. Partying hard on the weekends makes planning for the week and shopping for veggies on Sunday a real drag. This is another reason I’ve never really cooked. I have a life. I’m not sure what’s valuable about this lesson, actually, I’m just telling you, it blows. In other news, Paul McCartney was amazing at Piedmont Park this weekend. Have you heard of this guy? He was in a little band called the Beatles. I mean, we lost our shit when this happened.

Onward to peppers. Bring it, peppers.

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harshing my dad’s mellow

I won’t have a sordid history with every vegetable the way I do with squash, so most weeks I’ll just jump right in and tell you how I gagged on the cabbage (ugh, cabbage), but squash and I go way back. Not the warm fuzzy way my friends like to go way back with their vegetables (“Mmm, my grandma’s butterbeans are the best!”), more like a cold, prickly, pit-of-my-stomach kind of way. Through no real fault of their own, my parents weren’t the Leave it to Beaver, five-star chefs my friends’ parents all seem to be (sorry, Mom, sorry, Dad). My mom’s mom was a shitty mom and never told my mom she was pretty or taught her how to cook, and my dad, well, he was a dude in the age that dads weren’t supposed to have to cook, but bless him, he did anyway. I know they’ll come down on me like a hammer for this with all sorts of examples of good homecooking I’m conveniently forgetting (holidays don’t count, folks), but for the most part, we ate Hamburger Helper. And Tuna Helper.

ward and june cleaver...and my parents, the anti-cleavers

Because of this Reagan-era, working mom, add-water-to-a-box diet, it was a big, fat, hairy deal at our house when my mom bought fresh squash, boiled all the nutrition and other good bits right out of it, slathered it in butter and cheese, baked it and called that dinner. Squash, gross. Squash casserole was an infrequent transgression against me, but I hated it every time. Hated. It. My mom was not a shitty mom and she did tell me I was pretty, but she was still a mighty, harrowing force to be reckoned with and a whiny, snotty, vegetable-hating child was no match for her and her squash casserole. We would eat it and we would like it and we would do it happily, she warned every time she made that scary squash.

My dad, on the other hand, was a pretty mellow fellow. He happily went along with our usually egalitarian family dinner dynamics. Whoever “cooked” (or ordered the pizza) didn’t have to do dishes, and whoever cooked or did dishes one night wouldn’t have to do them the next night. We regularly traded and rotated, and no one was ever burdened with too much hardship at the dinner table. He liked it that way: peaceful, calm, ordered.

Then one pretty Southern summer day (read: scorching hot, sweltering, painfully uncomfortable) my sister and I passed the time by being particularly badly behaved, torturing my parents while they ferried us around to sales and discount stores for the loathsome, thankless task of outfitting us for the new school year. After that, most unfortunately, that painfully uncomfortable summer day turned into a hot, miserable, squash casserole summer night, and reasonably, our bad behavior followed us home. While my mom “slaved over a hot stove,” (one of her most favorite and most ironic expressions), my dad, smart as he was level-headed, began to suspect a revolt was brewing at the kitchen table, his peaceful, harmonious kitchen table. Before my mom ever got to her “you’ll eat it and like it” speech, he eyed both of us and in an uncharacteristically stern voice said, “Your mother has worked very hard on this dinner. I don’t want to hear any complaints about it. Not one word. Not one word.”

Really? That’s what he was going with? It was like bait. He was baiting me.

Mom put the plate in front of me and there sat that gooey pile of squashy mess, chock full of onions (aaagggh..ack..gag) and, of course, squash and god knows what else because it’s a casserole and you can’t see what all is in it and so I said….

“Is this…?”

And my dad said,

“Don’t say it.”

And I said,

“Is this that stuff…?”

And my dad said,

“Don’t say it.”

Long pause.

Longer pause.

We stared at each other. And I think he thought it was over. He picked up his fork and went to take a bite of…


BAM! He slammed his fork down and broke his plate. It’s hard to tell that story without putting, really, a LOT of emphasis on the part where HE BROKE A PLATE. But seriously, my dad broke a plate. Over squash casserole. Really, Dad?

my dad broke a plate for fuck's sake

So, I thought it was important, in homage to my hardworking mom and my peaceful, mellow dad, to inaugurate this project with my most hated vegetable (other than onions, which aren’t on the list), and I’m going to start it–Day 1, right off the bat–with squash casserole (except without the onions, obviously). Here’s to you, Mom and Dad. I’m going to eat it and like it.

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the waiting game

Many, many thanks to all of you who are contributing suggestions for this project and believing in me and being general good sports about how much fun this is going to be. You are welcome at my dinner table any time. Those of you who haven’t yet bet on me and are still naysaying, you can suck it.

So I’ve been itching all week to get this show on the road, but per my own rules of engagement, I don’t get to fire my first shot until Monday. In the meantime I’ve gotten my fill of eating out every night, and we had a fantastic dinner at La Tavola, which is celebrating tomato season right now with its annual Tomatofeast. So. Delicious.


Today, unable to contain my excitement any longer, I got up early and went to the East Lake Farmer’s Market to see a man about some squash. I thought the whole thing would be thrilling. I would take my camera! I would buy some squash! I would take a picture of me buying squash! I imagined a photo of me with the farmer, ala American Gothic, but proudly holding squash instead of a pitchfork, and smiling instead of scowling. So, not really American Gothic at all. But the farmer from whom I bought my squash for this week’s battle, a man whose livelihood depends on the consumption of produce items, wasn’t as charmed by my hatred of vegetables as I thought he should be. In fact, he had the same reaction everyone else does. “You don’t eat vegetables?” Boo farmer.


So. I’m all squashed up and ready to go. Ready. Steady. Ready. Steady.
Wait. Wait. Wait.

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that one time i realized i needed to grow the fuck up

I hate vegetables. So I don’t eat them.

“You don’t eat vegetables?!” I guess it’s a natural question for grownups to ask another grownup. It’s the consternation and obsessive need for verification I don’t understand. “Brussels sprouts?” Come on. I mean, I hate vegetables, and you’re going with Brussels sprouts right out of the gate? No. I don’t eat goddamn Brussels sprouts. “Eggplant?” No. “Asparagus?” For blerg’s sake, no. “Mushrooms?” No. “Peas?” No. And on and on until someone finally lands on something like…corn. Yes, OK, fine. I eat corn.


I’m always surprised at how galvanizing my hatred of vegetables is. Friends, family, total strangers, new acquaintances, colleagues, whoever is standing in earshot learn this news and truly fear for my life. They rally around me and campaign for their favorite vegetables. “Julie, I really think if you just give artichokes a chance, you’ll see, you’re a fart sucking idiot.” Friends have suggested donating my (live) body to science to be studied for surviving on little more than meat and potatoes. People I meet in passing profess an exaggerated, undying love for vegetables, enumerating them one by one, pausing to ask again, “Are you sure you don’t like kale? It’s my favorite.” Still don’t. And every single one of them swears he or she will be the revolutionary who will change it all for me and that this will be the year I will learn to love Swiss chard (this will also be the year I learn Swiss chard is not cheese). People really love vegetables. And I find this shocking. Was I the only child in America hiding peas in my milk and feeding broccoli to the family dog? Hating vegetables is rooted in something, somewhere real. I know I’m not alone.


Then one day in the early summer of 2008 life as I knew it took a sharp right turn. I mean, utter upheaval. It happened at a dinner party hosted by grownups and attended by adults, so it was assumed, understood, a given that I would act right and polite and do my due dinner party diligence by not puking on their food. Until they served a caprese salad. A caprese salad, as you may or may not know, is a tomato. It also has some cheese and basil on it, but it’s basically a tomato. And tomatoes I do not eat. Because why? That’s right, it’s a vegetable. And you naysayers who want to call it a fruit can stuff it, because I don’t eat fruit either. Eight or so of us sat at the table; eight or so pieces of tomato and mozzarella rested beautifully on the platter. The man sitting to my right took his tomato and began to pass the platter in my direction, as if he expected me to take it from him and maybe take a tomato and maybe pass the platter to the woman on my left. I just stared. I thought of suddenly feigning illness and making a quick, sick-like getaway to avoid contact with the dreaded tomato and possibly achieving my goal of not puking on my friends’ dining table. Then I began to have psychotic fantasies of the tomato leaping off the platter and eating me, which is totally something a vegetable would do. During all this mind wandering, the man to my right had managed to maneuver the platter into my hands, and there we sat: the killer tomatoes and me. Finally I selected the “salad” with the smallest tomato and the biggest piece of cheese and settled in to meet my slow, miserable, painful death by tomato.

Caprese Salad

But holy for serious, I liked it.

And that was the day I became a bona fide grownup.

In the transition to my new world order, I realized these sad facts about my life, pre-grownup:

  1. My husband, who is an excellent and knowledgeable cook, had all but stopped eating vegetables because of me
  2. Because we could never agree on what to cook together at home, we had established a lifestyle of eating out almost all the time, which negatively affects both our waists and our wallets
  3. And because I never really needed to, I never learned to cook

So I decided to kill all these goddamn birds with one stone. I’m going to take on vegetables. It’s me…against them. If you’re the betting kind, bet on me. I’m the winning kind. I win shit.

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