The Story My Mother Doesn’t Want You to Read

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Like most baby boomers, I grew up eating canned or frozen vegetables, which allowed my working mom to prep a speedy dinner. Unfortunately, a steady diet of mushy canned green beans can turn you into a veggie-phobe. Ever eat those salty, doused-in-liquid bean strands, whose texture resembles mulch?

In college, when I bought my first wok and steamer, I started buying fresh vegetables and was amazed at the difference. I loved shopping at Southern California’s Mrs. Gooch market chain, which eventually became Whole Foods Market. A whole new world opened: fresh broccoli, cauliflower, squash, sweet potatoes and even spinach, which became a personal favorite. Who would’ve guessed?

The worst vegetable my mother served—a true case of culinary torture—was frozen Brussels sprouts. Grossly overcooked, they were tasteless globs of sodden gray leaves, and if you bit into them, they would squirt hot water in your mouth. This was cruel and unusual punishment.

When I first spotted fresh Brussels sprouts at my natural foods market, it was a traumatic experience, accompanied by flashbacks, sweating and queasiness. Upon further inspection, however, I noticed they were a lovely shade of green. What a revelation! And they were cute, too! I wanted to bring home these miniature cabbage heads and steam them to perfection. I wasn’t disappointed when they emerged firm and flavorful, requiring only a touch of butter and salt.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Brussels sprouts are becoming the hot new holiday side dish for many organic cooks. This much-maligned vegetable is easy to prepare, and it’s a nutritional best bet, according to Boston-based dietitian Peggy O’Shea, president-elect of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association.

“Brussels sprouts, which are in their peak growing season during the holidays, are an excellent choice—not only because they provide a strong nutritional punch, but also because they may help you to satisfy your hunger and avoid other many high-calorie, high-fat foods,” she tells Organic Authority. “A member of the cabbage family, they are a cruciferous vegetable, which current research suggests may offer protection against some forms of cancer. The phytochemicals found in Brussels sprouts may also have a protective effect against some diseases, including cancer. Brussels sprouts are also a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, A and K, as well as potassium, beta-carotene and folate. They’re also a good source of fiber.”

In next week’s blog, I’ll feature organic buying tips, cooking advice and holiday recipes from some of America’s top chefs and restaurants. Share your childhood Brussels sprouts traumas by posting a comment here.

Enjoy your weekend!

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