Local author Tricia Cornell tells us how to eat more veggies
Just in time for CSA season comes local author (and past City Pages contributor) Tricia Cornell's new book Eat More Vegetables: Making the Most of Your Seasonal Produce to store shelves. Baffled by what to do with all that fall squash or early summer kohlrabi? Cornell has been there, and her book tackles everything from keeping your crisper from becoming a veggie graveyard to advice on shopping at your local farmer's market.
Snazzy veg-filled cover!
1. What inspired you to write a book about veggies?
We had our first child just over nine years ago and decided to become responsible adults. Part of becoming a responsible adult was eating actual green things, and I thought it was better if the veggies came to us. So we split a CSA share with a friend and picked it up every Thursday. Well, every Wednesday night I would cry because there would be a bunch of veggies still in the crisper rotting from the week before. I felt guilty and decided it was do or die, I had to make the most of this veggie share or cancel it, so I got out a whiteboard and wrote a menu plan for the whole week. And nine years later it's still the first thing I do every Saturday morning. It worked, and I used up all those veggies, and after two years we stopped splitting the share.
2. Were friends turning to you for advice about how to handle their shares?I've had friends and acquaintances say "I tried the CSA thing and it nearly killed me," and that happens. You bring home about 15 pounds of veggies on average, and there's only so much you can eat raw. You have to have strategies, but if it doesn't work for you it doesn't work for you.
3. What sorts of strategies do you talk about in the book?
There's a part about when you come home, here's how to unpack the box, what you should wash and shouldn't wash, cut the tops of this and not that, what to store in plastic bags and what to store in paper bags. It helps when you bring home the CSA share that you're ready for it.
4. It looks like the book isn't just targeted at CSA-havers, though.
No, there's a section on shopping at the farmer's market, ideas of things to make when you want to clean out the crisper and you just have a few carrots and a little bit of spinach. It's also not a vegetarian cookbook and not a health-food cookbook; one of the best ways to eat cauliflower is to deep-fry it, and there's definitely a few recipes that use meat. But it's a vegetable-centric book.
5. What can you do if you're committed to your CSA but, for example, you hate squash? No one wants to end up in tears over rotting squash.
Friends are always happy to get your squash, so give it away. But you can always disguise it in baked goods. Make a freezer full of pumpkin bread and eat pumpkin bread for breakfast for about eight months.
6. Do you have a favorite recipe in the book?
There's a French veggie soup, soupe au pisto, that has no meat in it and gets its flavor from a French pesto you stir into it. You really only make it in July when you have fresh green beans and potatoes and the first tomatoes. I also like the ramp and mushroom pesto.
7. Are your kids (ages 7 and 9) the biggest vegetable-consumers on the block?
There's a difference between what I put on the table and what they eat. I had a conversation with a friend who saw the whiteboard who said, "Your kids eat that?" I said, "No, that's a list of things I serve for dinner, not necessarily what they eat." But they love the kale chips and the lettuce cups, and they really love a recipe called "big salad" -- I couldn't get them to call it anything else. It's a crazy simple thing and it blows my mind that they love it. I chop up lettuce really small and arrange it on a pretty platter (that matters to them). Then I put wedges of toppings on top of the lettuce, like a wedge of hard boiled eggs, a wedge of shredded carrots, a wedge of cheese -- literally whatever is in the fridge, and put it on the table with olive oil and vinegar.
8. Look at the whiteboard and tell us what's for dinner tonight.
Fish sandwiches and a hydroponic salad.
If you want to get your hands on an autographed copy of Cornell's book and meet the author in person, head to the opening day of the Mill City Farmer's Market on May 12 where she'll be signing copies and dishing out veggie advice.