Just a guess here, but I’d wager that when you made those masked April emergency runs to the grocery store, you weren’t looking for low-fat ice cream or pizza with cauliflower crust. Let’s face it: no one, not even the healthiest health nut among us, wanted to open his self-isolating refrigerator to find plain yogurt and beet juice. Nope, if ever there was a time for comfort carbs, we were there.
I mean, we were stuck in our house anyway. We could have all gone on a 30-day juice cleanse, but we didn’t. Or at least, I didn’t. I tried to be sensible, though. I did. When I went to the store, I bought cottage cheese and frozen veggie frittatas, and I ate them, but mostly out of food waste guilt, not because I wanted to.
Being by myself just heightened my usual struggle between what I want to eat and what I know I should.
We all know we should be eating broccoli and whole grains and tofu, but what we want to eat is burgers and pasta and fries. During ordinary times (remember those?), we’d go to great lengths to continue to eat what we wanted while maintaining the aura of an informed, sensible eater.
It started with camouflage, burying broccoli and cauliflower under layers of heavy cheese sauce. Broccoli cheese soup? 97% cheese. And we all know that if you put ranch dressing on it, most of us will eat just about anything.
Then there emerged the full-on hiding movement, cookbooks and blogs devoted to nothing but cramming a serving of vegetables into something the kids (or reluctant spouses) were already agreeable to eating. One chicken company is now hiding a serving of vegetables in their chicken nuggets. Brilliant. Their one mistake was that they filmed a commercial in which they spilled the beans (zucchini?) to a group of real live children who didn’t seem to take it well. Kids are not of the mindset to receive this news and say, “By Jove, this does taste good. I must have been wrong about vegetables all this time. Bring on the kohlrabi, Mother Dear!”
The hiding tactic worked OK when cooking for others, but you can’t expect to hide vegetables from yourself. And so, the negotiations began. What if I made my pasta whole wheat? What if I fried zucchini slices? What if my burger was made from quinoa and black beans? It was worth a try. I mean, we’ve molded tofu into hot dog-shapes and turkey-esque slices for years.
But wait … what if we could have a big serving of vegetables that tasted like grilled beef? That’s the theory behind the Incredulous Burger. I tried it, and it was delicious, but I am a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, so I started delving into what actually went into this incredulous product. What I discovered was that the company didn’t stumble upon some miraculous rib roast plant deep in the Amazon jungle. No, the burger, the literature said, was “plant-based,” but so are my bamboo sheets and they didn’t taste like a burger hot off the grill. (To be honest, I didn’t taste them. I’m just guessing that if they did, we would have had the Incredulous Burger years ago.) No, the plants the company started with were familiar, but the gyrations and chemical incantations involved in making those plant items taste like ground beef were numerous and complicated, or at least complicated to me.
And so I remained un-incredulized and went back to eating my “twigs and berries” when what I really wanted was noodles.