Monday, June 18, 2007

The World's Most Boring Vegetable

Last week a friend and I were debating which is the most boring vegetable. This is not the vegetable that we like least, but the one that is just plain dull, regardless of how palatable it may or may not be. We discussed what it was that made a vegetable boring, and I opined that a boring vegetable is one that can really be prepared only one way. Fruit was not considered in this discussion.

We considered pretty nearly every vegetable, with the possible exception of salsify (probably because neither of us has really ever eaten salsify). I find, on further research, that salsify can be roasted, braised, or sautéed. That eliminates it from the running.

On further reflection, I’ve decided (independent of my friend) that making a vegetable into soup must also be taken out of the list of possible preparations. Soup can be made of just about any vegetable. It’s questionable how appealing soups made out of some choices may be: avocado soup (which always seems to be served chilled, something I find personally distasteful in any soup), cream of green bean (OK, I’ve never seen a recipe for this, but I’m sure someone somewhere has tried it). Practically any vegetable can be tossed into a soup, and almost all of them can be made into a cream-of variety.

Therefore, a vegetable must lend itself to roasting, sautéing, pureeing or mashing, steaming, broiling, braising, and/or baking to eliminate itself from the Most Boring Vegetable Ever competition.

After considering a long list of candidates, we narrowed it down to two: celery and peas.

Celery, to me, can be eaten raw (possibly with peanut butter or cream cheese, or dipped in some kind of dressing or dip), cut up and added for “crunch” in things like tuna or chicken salad. I know it can be made into cream of celery soup, but soup was eliminated from the possible preparations, and I also know the French braise it, but that idea sounds fairly revolting. Celery turns to mush when you cook it and stringy mush is not the sort of thing I really go for.

So celery is a prime candidate.

The other choice, peas, seem always to be an afterthought in things like potpies, risottos, and soups. They have an unpleasant tendency to squish when you bit into them, rather in the way cherry tomatoes do (which makes them also unappetizing to me). Peas as a vegetable side dish can pretty much just be kind of blanched, so it’s not like they have a ton of preparation options. I mean, just go ahead and try to grill them. And they roll off your fork, which makes them not only unpleasant, but maddening. They do, of course, go into various pea soup concoctions, but soup is out, so that leaves just the blanching way to cook them.

Peas can give celery a run for its money.

And when it all comes down, I have to vote for peas. I admit that the fact that I don’t like them much does sway my vote a little. However, celery, even as a “filler” in things like tuna or chicken salad, seems more useful. Peas don’t really add any flavor, or an interesting texture (in fact, with that whole squish thing, just the opposite), and they just clutter things up. Celery at least adds a little zing, a little snap. I find celery to be more useful than peas, even if it’s only useful in one way (raw). Peas aren’t very useful either raw or cooked.


Anonymous said...

I have often thought the potato the most versatile vegetable. But what's the most exciting vegetable? Not the potato. Too common. Too starchy. Perhaps something rare like daikon, but that's really only a big chinese radish.


Emma Shannon said...

I would agree that the potato is the most versatile vegetable. It's probably also my favorite, although these days it's being banished from the ranks of true "vegetables," which is sad. But hm...most exciting...that's a tough one, becuase it sort of depends on how you define "exciting." I'll have to give that one some thought! :)

Anonymous said...

Most exciting = butternut squash
Most boring = turnip

Anonymous said...

Choyote Squash is the most boring vegetable on earth.