Two Roasted Vegetables and a Tale of Childhood Trauma

Roasted Butternut Squash and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The publication of Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook has set off a veritable storm of discussion about the best ways to get your children to eat their vegetables. Jessica Seinfeld’s own methods include tricking the kiddies by baking spinach into brownies and squash into macaroni and cheese. She even goes so far as to suggest leaving an empty box of Kraft macaroni and cheese on the counter while you working your magic with various pre-pureed vegetables. I will refrain from entering the fray here with my own (very strong) opinions on the matter, other than to share a repressed memory which emerged in the wake of all the coverage about childhood food trauma.

As a child, I liked vegetables. Kale, cabbage, broccoli, bitter gourd, asparagus: I ate them all. I never even knew that I wasn’t supposed to like them. Until the day I was at my best friend’s house during Brussels sprouts night. Vicki’s mom was from England and her cooking was, unfortunately, very British. On that evening, she carried a large, sulfurous-smelling dish to the table. “Brussels sprouts!” she announced. “Now, no complaints,” she said, catching the expression on Vicki’s face. “You both have to finish your Brussels sprouts before you leave the table.”

You both? I look up in alarm. My own mother was not only a good cook, but was philosophically opposed to forcing her children to eat anything she didn’t like herself. The circumstance of being forced to eat something disgusting was unprecedented. Surely I wasn’t expected to eat whatever lurked inside that bowl.

But without further ado, Vicki’s mom heaped a large mound of greyish-green, slimy, overcooked Brussels sprouts onto my plate. What could I do? I choked every Brussels sprout past the large lump in my throat to get away from this nightmare of a dinner as soon as possible. They tasted every bit as horrible as they looked and smelled.

More than twenty years later, this injustice still rankles. It’s one thing to force your culinary ineptitude on your own child; it’s quite another to force it on someone else’s. It was years before I learned to like Brussels sprouts again. And what of the injustice done to the sprouts themselves? What on earth did the poor Brussels sprout do to deserve such a fate as being boiled to greyish-green sliminess?

Surely Brussels sprouts deserve much better treatment. It’s just as easy to roast the sprouts briefly in a hot oven to caramelize their natural sugars, making them succulent and slightly sweet.

And if your kids still won’t eat Brussels sprouts, try slow-roasting butternut squash, dusted in flour and generously drizzled with olive oil. It’s the contrast of textures that make this dish. The flour and oil render some of the squash pieces crisp, while others bake to a satisfying chewiness. The squash at the bottom of the dish becomes smooth and silky.

And if your kids don’t like the squash either, then give them a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese and enjoy these roasted vegetables yourself.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The very best Brussels sprouts have been kissed by the first frost of autumn. Make sure that the sprouts are fresh; avoid ones with yellow outer leaves.

Brussel sprouts, cut in half
enough olive oil to coat
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss sprouts with olive oil. Spread on cookie sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes, or until sprouts are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

Butternut Squash Provencal

1 butternut squash
1 clove garlic, minced
5 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fresh sage
salt and pepper
olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Peel butternut squash, making sure to remove every trace of pale orange and green that lurks beneath the surface of the peel. Make sure the deep orange flesh is exposed completely. Remove the seeds and the stringy flesh attached to the seeds. Scrape cavity thoroughly. Chop squash into 1 in cubes.

Toss squash in flour. Place in buttered casserole, making sure to leave excess flour behind. Generously salt and pepper the squash, sprinkle with minced garlic and sage, and toss again. Generously drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 2 hours, or until squash is completely tender when pierced with tip of a sharp knife.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Two Roasted Vegetables and a Tale of Childhood Trauma

  1. Erica

    i love brussels sprouts – i have a strange fetish for them. they are really good with balsamic vinegar.

  2. Neela

    Tisha! I’ve been waiting for your butternut squash recipe for years!! I’m very excited I finally get to make it. I was just reflecting with my friend Dan how I will never be as good of a cook as you. He was saying how he’s only met 1 or 2 people who have ever really blown him away, that everything they touch tastes good. My response was that all the women in our family are like that (except me, of course).

  3. Neela

    Oh, and by the way, love the new picture of you. My gmail picture is of me making the exact same facial expression. Guess we do look alike after all.

  4. Hi Erica,
    Yeah, roasted brussels sprouts are widely adaptable: wine vinegars, toasted nuts, a grating of cheese would all go well.

    Hi Neela,
    You know, you don’t have to wait for me to post something if you want a recipe, just call or email. Or, you could suggest things for me to post if there’s something you have in mind.

  5. Erica

    and fennel, don’t forget the fennel with the sprouts.

    i am going to make this squash in the next couple of days – i’ll tell you how it turns out!

  6. Lucky me!! I found two more dishes which seem simple to make. Roasted brussels sprouts & butternut squash. They sound delicious. Will give both a try. By the way, I tried making the carrot soup, it turned out so very tasty.

  7. Hi Aunty Venita,
    I’m glad the carrot soup turned out well. I hope you like the sprouts and squash as much!

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