By Anne Trominski:
There are some hard truths of life that we, as adults, must face and come to terms with. So, I’m not going to sugarcoat this, but hope that wherever you are on your own personal plant-based journey, you’ll be able to cope with the following harsh reality:
BABY CARROTS ARE A LIE!
There isn’t a miniature farm somewhere tended by a petite agriculturalist who lovingly harvests immature carrots with an adorably small hoe. Vegetable companies just take the big carrots and cut them into smaller pieces! The carrots that come in the baby carrot bag are in no way significantly younger than those big ugly carrots in the other bag! They’re just cleaner! It’s all lies!
In fact, it’s kind of an insult! It’s like the vegetable industry is saying, “Yeah, we know you’re super lazy about peeling carrots. Here! Here are your pre-prepped carrots, you big baby!” Because really, couldn’t we be peeling and cutting our own carrots? And why are we buying carrots in plastic bags at stores? We should be buying them at farmer’s markets in handwoven carryalls from local growers! Or better yet, grow our own! Then we know they aren’t grown with pesticides! We’ll plant them next to our new kale harvest and turnip row! We’ll never buy mega-liar-vegetable-pants-on-fire-conglomerate’s distorted veg again! What’s stopping our dream of baby carrots?!
Um. Well. Reality.
Because what do the bag of baby carrots really represent? Well, despite shattering delightful daydreams of Mama Rabbit only selecting youthful plants to feed her hungry baby bunnies, it means . . . well, not much at all. The carrot nutrients stay the same whether you peel them yourself or a mega-big-liar-vegetable company does it for you. In fact, you probably eat more carrots because all you have to do is open the bag and they are good to go. So, the baby carrots represent . . . you eating more carrots.
Yes, in an ideal world we’d all spend our weekends buying organic local vegetables that we would clean and chop as we meal prep for the rest of the week while listening to NPR news and taking breaks to do lunges before dashing off on our steam bicycles to teach yoga to underprivileged bunny youth who only munch on neophyte veggies, but . . . nobody lives in that realm of being. That world is empty. (Except for all the adorable bunnies with their tiny cabbages.) The world we live in has jobs and errands and other people who want to eat dinner before 9:00 p.m. And in this world, the easiest and fastest food that everyone can obtain is French-cut fried potatoes.
Thank goodness for baby carrots.
Oh, and let’s also spread some gratitude for pre-washed grape tomatoes. Oh, and lest we forget the package of sliced baby bellas! You heat a frying pan to medium, remove some cling-wrap, twist your wrist, and BAM, you’re cooking! Bags of pre-washed salad, pre-cut jicama, slawed broccoli—these are a few of my favorite things! And that’s just in the produce section!
In the frozen section, not only are the vegetables cleaned and cut for you, they are frozen so you can keep them for, I don’t know, like months and they won’t go bad! Not only that, several of the mega-vegetable companies produce these things call steamer bags. You can take the frozen bag of broccoli out of the freezer and put it straight into your microwave, and five minutes later you’ve got edible food. That’s a lot faster than pizza delivery. Shelled edamame, riced cauliflower, and sprialized zucchini are also showing up in a frozen food aisle near you. You can be healthy and trendy simultaneously in half the time.
Don’t forget the canned goods. “What? Canned goods? You mean like my grandmother made casseroles out of?” Hells yeah! THOSE canned goods. Yes, roasting whole corn cobs and then carefully slicing off the kernels is a lot tastier than opening a can and draining it, but one is ready in 32 seconds and one sends corn kernels flying all over your countertops. Also, if you are serious about this plant-based business, I’ve got two words for you: canned beans. Beans are the protein powerhouse of any vegan diet, and the canned ones are a drain and rinse away from being put into a meal. But do canned beans fit into the goal of whole-food, plant-based righteously healthy eating?
Well, I was recently on a vegan FB page where a hapless noob asked if it was okay to used canned beans. The first comment was, “Only for convenience.” WELL WHAT THE HELL ELSE IS THE POINT OF CANNED BEANS?! You know what takes less time than soaking beans overnight? Learning how to use a can opener. Please don’t food snob your way out of health. If the thing stopping you from making vegetarian chili tonight is the idea of buying beans in bulk, please visit the canned food aisle. And pick yourself up some chopped tomatoes and artichoke hearts while you are there. Oh, and stay off of the vegan sites that pick on the new veg-eating kids on the block. (That’s a whole ranty blog post in itself.)
Yes, whole, fresh-out-of-the-ground raw organic food is probably the healthiest choice for you, but you still get nutrients from pre-prepped vegetables. You still get them from frozen and canned vegetables, too. Cooking a vegetable can affect the amount of nutrients you ingest, but not in such a significant way that you should be worrying about it when you have only 30 minutes to eat. Because a cooked vegetable has a lot more nutrients for you than the vegetable you didn’t eat. You can still be healthy even with a few shortcuts.
The concern with pre-prepped veggies are not what happens to the intrinsic value of the vegetables themselves, but what’s added to them. When purchasing frozen and canned vegetables, read the labels for added preservatives and flavorings and then avoid those. That might require a little extra time in the store initially, but once you find some brands that work for you, you can always have plant-based staples in your kitchen that will make it easier to stave off the siren call of takeout. Plain, wholesome frozen vegetables do exist, and while it is difficult to find veggies not canned in salt, it’s not impossible. If you do buy brined veggies, it’s not the end of the world. Drain and rinse before adding them to the dish and then reduce or eliminate any added salt called for in the recipe.
“But isn’t this contributing to the ecological disaster that is a single-serving society?” Not as much as bottled water! Seriously, though, while again, we would ideally be growing our own gardens and eschewing all forms of waste, it’s hard to do in the modern lifestyle. While picking up the plastic package of grape tomatoes isn’t as green as picking them from a vine, it’s okay. Eating vegan is one of the most ecologically friendly choices you can make as a denizen of the world. Just by going plant-based you are contributing to a growing green trend that positively affects the world we live in. If you can avoid the packaged food, great, go for it! But if getting through a hard week while maintaining your healthy food choices involves a can of black beans, forgive yourself and recycle.
“But the cost! Those mendacious baby carrots cost more than the big ugly ones?” Yeah, they do. Buying any kind of food that has been pre-prepped in some way usually costs more money than buying whole food and prepping it yourself. At least, in terms of moolah. It costs you some extra money, but boy does it save you some time and heartache. Also, have you been to a doctor recently? Let me tell you about something that’s really expensive: healthcare in America. A few extra bucks on the pre-cleaned fruit and vegetables every week is worth the long-term savings in future medical bills. Seriously, you and your health are worth the extra dollar and change for adorably small carrots.
If you are having trouble turning into the angelic plant-based consumer you always hoped to be, please give yourself a break and let the grocery store help you out. Don’t feel guilty for some shortcuts or spending a little extra on your sanity. If you’ve ever gotten drive-thru because it was the fastest way to get food, if you ever dropped out of a recipe because it had a soaking overnight step, if you’ve ever felt less cool than the cool vegan kid making her own nut cheese on Facebook, if you’ve ever thought that buying the pre-cut fruit was extravagant, if you’ve ever actually thought that baby carrots were, in fact, young carrots, I forgive you. You should forgive you, too. And grab those canned beans already.