Earlier this year, after nearly an entire lifetime (well, nigh-on forty years at least) of eating of what can only be described as the bare minimum of vegetables required for survival, I decided I'd actually try finding a way to increase my intake of the dreaded plant matter.
It wasn't that I didn't eat vegetables at all; I've always eaten tomatoes1 and salads and so forth, and a couple of years ago added a red lentil curry (with broccoli, carrot and cauliflower) to my regular menu; I also included things like carrots and mushrooms2 to my (meat) bolognaise sauce, and when I made stir-fry I'd throw in a few frozen beans and/or carrots.
Lunch every day at work included a glass of V8 vegetable juice – the all-vegetable kind, not the half-fruit variety – which helped me believe I was achieving the supposed daily recommended intake3.
But I started wondering if that wasn't enough. The reason for this was simple; I realised that I didn't have as much energy as I thought I should have, and thought that I might as well give a somewhat healthier diet a shot and see if that made any difference.
So, I decided I'd try to increase the vegetable intake. The most obvious – and easy – was to have stir-fries more often, and to replace the Singapore noodles I included with more veges: mushrooms, broccoli, bok choy, baby spinach and capsicum.
Oh, I should probably add that I am somewhat limited in that there are vegetables I won't eat – gourds (pumpkin, squash etc.) for example; I just can't stand them – and others which just aren't practical for someone who tends to cook for one because of the quantity they're sold in – spinach, for example.
Anyway, the stir-fry thing has worked out very well indeed; I vary between different meats – chicken, beef, lamb, pork – and different sauces: oyster, black bean, hoi sin, sweet chili and satay. I've been eating it twice a week for over four months now and am not getting sick of it (something that is sometimes a problem for me).
My energy levels seem to have improved, and I'm also enjoying trying different combinations of flavours with the stir-frying. I've also been trying other dishes: there's a pasta sauce I threw together out of tinned tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, carrots and celery; despite my suspicion that it'd turn out to be barely edible (at best) it was great, and now I make it on a regular basis. I also made a chicken, leek and potato (with onion and celery) soup that I'll probably make again.
And I'm always on the lookout for new recipes; once I'm done with the show I'm currently rehearsing and have a few more weeknights free, I'll have more time to try things out – and, since it's winter, the climate lends itself to soup, which means plenty of opportunities for experimentation.
Whatever you do, though, don't tell my mother. Vegetables I appear to be able to handle; 'I told you so' would be a much harder mouthful to swallow.
1 Please don't bother with the 'tomato is a fruit' nonsense; I'm using the term vegetable in the culinary sense, not the botanical one.
2 Yes, I know it's a fungus. See note 1.
3 Which, I learned from QI, is not backed up by any science whatsoever, hence why it's different in different countries.