When I was single, I had a system for how I cooked. Usually it was a big batch of pasta, or rice, to consume through the week. It wasn’t that I didn’t like to cook. I did. But I never wielded it, the way Gabriel Garcia Marquez said his mother controlled the universe with a steaming cauldron of rice and beans. I just liked having a system of food for the week.
Then, I learned to steam vegetables.
It was a watershed moment, like discovering fire. A golden taste of light and understanding. The feeling of a steamed broccoli stalk splitting as my teeth drove through it like a chisel. It was inspiring. If a little boiling water could have this effect on broccoli, what else could it do this to? Cabbage? Spinach? Eggplant?
I didn’t steam eggplant. Or parsnips. I did eventually learn to roast parsnips and grill eggplant. But steaming was my favorite. It soften fibers, it deepened colors. Spinach turned a rich hunter green. Orange glowed. The tough skin and cool exterior was gone. It was like my vegetables were being completely honest with me. They were telling it like it is, and it was all good with them. No fighting, no bitterness, just pure enjoyment. Sometimes you have to take it with a pinch of salt, but who doesn’t have friends like that? It’s worth it. There’s nothing like an unpretentious vegetable.