While buying soup ingredients last week, one of those dreaded “should” thoughts popped into my head.
“I should put some greens in it.”
I like greens – kale, spinach, cabbage, lettuce – but that isn’t where the thought came from. It was that deep-seated and ingrained command: “Eat your greens.”
I don’t even think my parents ever said this. But I’ve breathed it in from other cultural sources.
I didn’t worry too much about it at the time. I just grabbed some spinach and moved one.
But then I glanced through the beginning of the wonderful book, Wild Garlic, Gooseberries… and Me by Denis Cotter.
I’d turned to the book for inspiration, since I wanted to write something tied into St. Patrick’s Day. And Cotter is an amazing Irish chef.
Looking at the book was the right decision. Because the whole first section is devoted to greens.
Cotter is clearly passionate about them. But one of the first things he discusses is how they’ve gotten a bad rap.
He points out that people are encouraged to eat greens as a form of bitter medicine, to “be swallowed as such without any expectation of pleasure.” (p. 14)
It’s so true! I mean, how often do you hear people going on and on about that amazing cabbage they had?
It’s changed some recently, especially the focus on kale. But even that has seemed to be more about the nutritional benefits rather than taste. Kale is touted as a superfood, so it got superstar attention.
Cotter, though, has a radical idea. What about eating greens for enjoyment? Because you actually like them?
He did lament the lack of language to describe how greens taste. Unlike wine, we don’t have a lot of vocabulary for it. But he described some of the best as “earthy with a little bitterness” but with a sweetness that comes out when cooked. (p. 17)
What really struck me, though, was his description of fresh greens as having a taste of “life force.” He wrote: “It is engaging with life itself, in a pure and vibrant form that we can absorb but can’t quantify.” (p. 17)
I don’t know about you, but that makes greens far more appealing to me. Certainly more than watching Popeye gulp down cans of spinach. Or being told they’re a food source of iron and other minerals.
If I think about the lettuce I grow in the summer, or the kale I get from my friend, I feel that connection. The sense of aliveness and energy. A taste of growth and waking up.
Maybe that’s why Cotter also noted that some people say green is the color of hope. It reminds us of life returning. Something we can definitely use when we’re still snow-bound here in Maine.
I also have to sneak in a sci-fi note here. Could this also be the reason why Yoda in Star Wars is green? After all, he’s the epitome of connection to the life force, and of hope. And I’m guessing he ate some greens.
All of which to say – I like the idea of eating greens because they taste good. They make you feel more connected and full of life. If they’re good for you, even better.
But maybe the next time I make soup, or any other time I notice that “should” thought, I can push it aside. Instead, I can say, “I want some greens because I like them.”
And that idea, too, gives me hope.