When I was a little girl, I detested squash of all kinds. My mother would put one small slice of zucchini or one dollop of mashed butternut on my plate, instructing me to “try just one bite.” I would wait until only that one lonely bit of vegetable remained on my plate, and then try to gulp it down without tasting it. I tried salt, ketchup, and even washing it down with milk but it always made me gag, threatening an encore performance of the other, more palatable foods I had swallowed.
When visiting my aunt and uncle in Maryland, I found that dinner one evening consisted solely of squash casserole. I still remember my uncle smacking his lips, declaring, “That squash is delicious-sweet as a nut!”
“You’re the nut” I grumbled under my breath, trying to ignore my belly’s rumbling. At fifteen, I dared not tell him I hated squash. I went hungry that night.
Lots of people don’t like squash. In fact, lots of people don’t like vegetables. I know people who don’t eat anything green or yellow. I think it is maybe because they were forced to eat stuff that made them gag when they were kids.
When Abby was a baby, I was determined that she would not be a picky eater. I made most of her baby food for her in a grinder. She loved unusual foods and would gobble down things like bits of bleu cheese and slices of apricot. One day, however, I bought jarred baby food, thinking it would simplify my life. I warmed the vegetables and beef dinner, trying to ignore the fact that it closely resembled dog food both in smell and appearance. Abby took one whiff and turned her head.
“How can someone who eats bleu cheese scoff and good old American Gerber’s?” I asked. I decided I could be as stubborn as she was and insisted she eat the full amount. She gagged and protested, but she ate it. Smugly satisfied, I commended myself on not being outdone by a one-year-old. Then she calmly and quietly barfed the entire jar onto the tray of her high chair. So much for force feeding. So much for Gerber.
I decided that the kids should try a little of every food, but not be forced to eat things they hated. This worked to some extent, but sometimes they decided they didn’t like things before they even tried them. I remember Gabe staring for the first time at a steaming bowl of pea soup, declaring, I don’t like this stuff.” Try as I might, I could not get him to taste it. I even thought of blind-folding him, but decided doing that bordered on child abuse even more than making a three-year-old eat pea soup.
Shortly thereafter, I was grinding homemade beef and vegetable soup in the blender for Elizabeth’s baby food when I realized that once blended, vegetables were no longer recognizable. Ureka! I thought. I could add a plethora of vegetables to the broth, grind them to a silky consistency, and nobody would look into the bowl and declare “Eeeew! It has celery in it!” Added to this discovery was the advantage that the soup had the consistency of gravy and was far easier and less messy for young children to eat. Needless to say, I rode that wave for years.
Hard to believe, my kids grew up to love vegetables. The girls, now grown women, are vegetarians. Gabe, although still a carnivore, eats all kinds of veggies. When they are all home, half of my grocery budget goes to fruits and vegetables.
As for me, for some strange reason, the summer before I left for college I tried a bite of garden fresh yellow squash, steamed, swimming in butter, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. To my astonishment, I liked it. I tried other squashes- zucchini, butternut, acorn, spaghetti- and found that I liked them too. I even have concocted my own recipe for butternut soup. Now, if I could just find a way to like exercise…
Momma G’s Butternut Soup
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut up into cubes
1-2 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced and sautéed in olive oil till soft and caramelized
1 clove garlic, peeled, mashed, and sautéed with onions in olive oil
1 can of chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Cook squash in boiling water until soft. Run squash, onion and garlic through food processor or blender in small batches until smooth. Add lemon juice and enough broth to thin to preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.