It wasn’t the day I sold my entire 5,000-plus record collection. Nor was it the days my kids were born. It wasn’t when I had to quit playing basketball in my 40s because my back and knees crapped out. Nor was it the day my divorce became final. It was actually just last weekend.
I was at dinner with my girlfriend and a few of her closest pals when I said something outrageous I had never said before:
“These artichokes are delicious!”
That was the moment I officially became a grown-up.
Along with being tall and sarcastic, hating on yucky vegetables had been one of my defining characteristics — the last bastion of my arrested development, the spaghetti-thin thread that kept me tethered to the illusion that I was still young. The closest I ever came to enjoying them was listening to Frank Zappa sing "Call Any Vegetable" (and I still don't like the Beatles' "Glass Onion").
I’ve always been a meat and potatoes kind of guy (and yes, I know potatoes are a vegetable, but they’re the good vegetables like Cobb salad and vodka sauce). It’s the evil ones (I’m talking to you, cauliflower, beets and that malformed yellow thing that the Indians liked so much!) that I’ve despised ever since I first spat them out on the kitchen floor more than 50 years ago.
It seems every woman I’ve ever been with has tried to convince me otherwise, starting with my mom. When I wouldn’t eat the peas and carrots on my plate, she ingeniously hid them under mounds of buttery mashed potatoes, thus making me question the honesty and integrity of all women ever since.
My ex-wife would routinely serve broccoli or string beans with dinner and I’d tell her how tasty they were while secretly throwing up a little in my mouth, which actually made them slightly more palatable. My two boys shared my distaste for all things green and leafy (well, maybe not all things), and it’s no coincidence they knew us all by name at the local Mickey D’s and Subway. Have you ever had the Larry Double-Meat Combo at Subway? That’s me.
After my divorce, I dated a woman for a while who was a superb cook. She, however, insisted that I eat all the vegetables she dutifully prepared or there would be no dessert — of any kind. I lost 10 pounds, but we still broke up soon after.
Yes, yes, I know vegetables are good for you and that plenty of people (let’s call them “women”) love the way they taste. I also know there are other people (let’s call them “meat-challenged”) who will eat only vegetables, and I respect all of these culinary points of view. I’ve just always preferred my veggies to be on top of pizzas — mainly in the form of mushrooms, onions and pepperoni. (Pepperoni is so a vegetable!)
Then a curious thing happened. I fell in love with a fantastic woman a few months ago and everything — including the long yellow things I’ve since learned are called “summer squash” — began to taste great. That’s what love will do to you. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those “love conquers all vegetables” stories. I’m pretty sure veggies have always tasted pretty great. It just took me all of this time to finally be open enough to experience them.
My girlfriend and I will go out to eat and order roasted cauliflower that’s as yummy as candy and Caesered Brussels sprouts that melt in your mouth. Or we’ll stay in and she’ll cook artichokes and kale (a word I always thought was just made-up) and every delectable morsel tastes like a mother’s kiss.
“These artichokes are delicious,” I said to her.
“They are,” she said. “But they’re also healthy. I’d like to keep you around for a while.”
And that’s where the grown-up part came in. So now I eat my vegetables, not like a good little boy, but like a man who wants to live a long and happy life with the woman he loves.