IT’S been a bad fortnight for vegetables. They’ve gone from the friendly, health-giving, albeit slightly goodie-goodie friends in our fridge to secret killers.
Children and salad-dodgers are rejoicing as they’re proved right, while every persuasive aeroplane-fork that ever was has hit another obstacle on its journey to oesophagus central. Veg is the new chips, doughnuts and turkey twizzlers.
I ought to say now that I am writing this on Monday, and you are reading it any time after Thursday. You might be reading this in 2025 after finding it in an attic, in which case I apologise for the hair in my byline. Either way, the point is you are in the future and I am in the past, and by Thursday you may well know what has caused the E.coli outbreak. From where I’m sitting, all we know is: it isn’t cucumbers, and it probably isn’t bean sprouts.
Is anybody else disappointed it isn’t bean sprouts? I think I can do without bean sprouts. My stir fries would be slightly bereft of crunch, but that’s basically the only blemish I can think of. And the benefits – virtual elimination of Gillian McKeith’s legacy, never again being disappointed because you thought they were noodles but aren’t – definitely outweigh it.
Sweet potatoes, now there we would have a problem. I adore sweet potatoes. They are as close to dessert as one can get while still technically eating a vegetable. It amazes me more seven-year-olds haven’t cottoned on to this fact. The clue’s in the name, kids.
Butternut squash and pumpkin can masquerade as pudding, too, with the right culinary know-how (I find syrup usually does it). I’m also hoping it isn’t turnips, because then childhood classic The Giant Turnip would suddenly take on a sinister air. In fact, if the perpetrator turns out to be any root vegetable at all then I think our gastronomic landscape will be all the poorer for it. Carrots I could easily lose from their in-salads-and-stuff role, but never from their delicious-in-cakes cameo appearances. Likewise cauliflower, because no other veg lends itself quite so well to snuggling down under a blanket of cheese.
In all, I would like to express a wish now that the culprit be none of the following: Peas – the vanilla of the veg world, basically impossible to dislike Beetroot – exciting despite negative effects on wee. Aubergine – mm, purple. Courgette – mmm, green. Leek – what would Wales do? Mushroom – learning to like them is the official mark of adulthood. Asparagus – ooh, posh. Rocket – because I’d miss hearing people pronounce it “rockay” Sprouts – because actually liking them lends me some caché.
Tomato – quite obviously the King of Vegetables, despite all this “actually a fruit” nonsense.
I realise this doesn’t leave much room for manoeuvre, so I’m offering up a vegetable as sacrifice: green peppers. Green peppers are conclusively rubbish. They are lesser versions of their red and yellow sisters, and they taste of grass. I would happily send green peppers to Room 101 forever, if it meant people would stop getting ill and salad could keep its rep.