IN PRAISE OF SEASONAL VEGETABLES

I love eating vegetables and a meal without them is unimaginable. The photos in this post are of some of the produce I bought last Saturday at my regular vendors stall in The Queen Victoria Market. I did not bother to put in potatoes, celery, carrots, herbs and the other fruit that I bought – I wanted to show in the photos the seasonal produce I am buying now and very much enjoying.

Vegetables have always been an important part of the Italian diet. There may be several reasons for this and without going into too much detail, Here are a few of them.

Culturally Italians have cooked vegetables in interesting ways: braise, grill, fry, boil and dress, roast, etc. whereas Anglo-Australians tended to primarily boil, steam, roast.

Historically Italians have cultivated and eaten a large variety of vegetables. The following vegetables are relatively new in Australia: fennel, chicory, broccoli, zucchini, eggplants, peppers, leafy vegetables for salads e.g. radicchio, romaine lettuce.  When I arrived in Australia the only common vegetables were cauliflowers, cabbages, carrots, pumpkins, peas and string beans.

Italians are very health-conscious. The Romans learned a great deal from the Ancient Greeks. Illnesses and other health problems were treated with herbal remedies and there was an interest with what one ate and when, the combination of foods and its effects on the body. This interest has continued and Italians are still very particular about their health especially the digestive system.

Economically vegetables are cheaper to grow than meat, which means they are also cheaper to buy and many Italians in years gone by could not afford to eat large quantities of meat; although fish was cheaper, some could still not afford to eat fish, either. Australia is said to ‘have ridden on the sheep’s back’ by the late 1830’s there were sheep in every colony and raising and eating meat is embedded in the Australian culinary culture.

Increasingly, ethical dilemmas and health concerns have caused many people to become vegetarians and I have many friends who are. I have had many conversations with people who are making an effort to eat less and less meat and I too, seem to be cooking meat less frequently – not that we have ever eaten very much meat in my house.

For a variety of reasons and perhaps coincidence being vegetarian is also getting some attention in the media and at events. As part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, I attended an event at the Melbourne Town Hall where six speakers debated the topic Animals Should Be Off the Menu. For the proposition:  Peter Singer, Philip Wollen, Veronica Ridge. Against the proposition: Adrian Richardson, Fiona Chambers, Bruce McGregor. Those who attended were able to vote to decide the outcome of the debate and perhaps not surprisingly, the side arguing that animals should be off the menu, clearly won.

IQ2 Debate: Animals Should be Off the Menu:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCmwlQWgI8w

A few weeks after the debate Richard Cornish, a well-respected Melbourne journalist held in high esteem for his integrity, announced in The Age Epicure (Tuesday publication of The Age Melbourne newspaper) that he had given up eating flesh and had lost an incredible amount of weight. A photo of his healthy-looking face and beaming smile accompanied the article and said it all.

Grabbing the vegie might:

http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/cuisine/grabbing-the-vegie-might-20120407-1whk3.html

The Old Foodie also published a post on her blog about a picnic held by The Vegetarian Society of New York in June 1899. I do not think that the journalist who reported the event in The New York Times was in favour of vegetarians – I found this amusing and I hope that some of these views about vegetarians have changed.

http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2012/05/vegetarian-picnic-1899.html

There are many posts on this blog about vegetables, how to clean and how to cook them, but far too many to list here.

Use the search buttons to find recipes for: artichokes, broadbeans, cardoons, cavolo nero, chicory, cime di rape, celeriac, fennel, indivia (escarole, endives) kohlrabi, salad greens – frisee, romaine, radicchio, radish etc.
Let’s not forget summer vegetables: eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini….

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