Note: Denis Cotter has an amazing restaurant called Café Paradiso in Cork, Ireland, which I highly recommend if you’re ever in the area. He’s also written some good books, and the below quotes are taken from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries… and Me.
Have you ever noticed how many foods become green on St. Patrick’s Day, even if they’re not normally? This includes things like donuts, muffins, beer, and the like. But I rarely see a lot of energy around naturally green foods for the holiday, except for the occasional recipe with cabbage. After all, for most people, green pastries or beer are much more enticing than a dish with kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, etc.
Why is this? Why does the phrase “eat your greens” sound so ominous? According to Irish chef and author Denis Cotter, “Green vegetables… have very often been taken as if they were medicine…. It was inevitable that this attitude led to greens being cooked as though they were medicine, too, with little care given to how they might taste.” (pp. 14-16)
He makes a good point. We all know that greens are nutritious, but if we regard them only in that light, we’re apt to feel like we should eat them. The “should” might in turn lead to resentment and avoidance – or at least it does for me. (I’ve never reacted very well to having people tell me what to eat.)
But if you can get past that, approach the greens on their own terms, you might find that you actually like them for themselves. Not all varieties, perhaps, or all preparations, but you might find that Brussels sprouts with bacon is quite tasty. You may discover the joys of a fresh salad made with baby spinach – a far cry from the canned spinach my grandfather used to give me for Christmas. Kale has also been making a comeback, with lots of new fans of kale chips, and I am personally excited to see asparagus appearing in stores, a sure and tasty sign of spring.
So if you want to celebrate Ireland and green and the end of winter, and you haven’t traditionally eaten a lot of the natural greens, you could consider if you want to try them with a new perspective. And maybe, like me, you’ll come to agree with Cotter: “[We] have actually come to love green vegetables for their flavour, texture, and almost indefinable life-force quality.” (p. 50)
Either way, enjoy the holiday, and hopefully those of us in wintery states will soon see some green emerging from beneath the snow!