Freddie is a seven-year-old vegetable hater with a finely honed gag reflex. His mother would like to get him to love his greens, and she has a secret weapon to help in her quest—a blog.
The Great Big Vegetable Challenge is a project born of a mother’s desire to get her son to like vegetables— or even just swallow a bit without gagging. The goal is simple, work through the vegetable kingdom in alphabetical order, from A to Z, and to blog about the experience. It is the “challenge of turning him from a vegetable-phobic, into a boy who will eat and even enjoy some of life’s leafier pleasures.”
What makes it such a worthwhile read is Freddie’s mum’s witty humor as she tried to navigate the vegetable world and proper parenting. Her musings on the nature of different vegetables is worth the price of admission.
From the A section, artichokes:
As I emerged from the tube in Kentish Town I was confronted by a mob of globe artichokes glaring at me from a market stall. So far as you can humanise a vegetable, artichokes really do look quite angry. They are prickly-looking creatures who seem a little reluctant to let you enjoy them. I feel a bit uneasy about them. I’m not sure what to do with them… Artichoke fans speak in hushed tones about the bit in the middle. How I get to that bit is unclear. I think that artichokes should be sold with an instruction manual.
Moving on to B, beans:
I think if Freddie and I linger any longer with beans we will run the risk of joining Pythagoras who died being pursued into a bean field. He felt unable to trample on any of them, believing that the souls of man transformed into beans after death. It’s a slippery slope to madness so our parting shot is broad bean soup which this recipe claims is for children who hate broad beans. Trouble is there is normal hate and there is pathological hatred. Will report back.
And then, success with the beans:
My son, he of the turning-up-nose, eyes-screwed up, pale-face tucked into a bowl of broad bean soup as if he had been born into a Vegan commune. “This”, he declared, “Is something I will be wanting again!”
She’s even brave enough to attempt that pinnacle of child vegetable hatred, Brussels sprouts:
To be honest, putting so much effort into the humble Brussels sprout is a bit like customising a Morris Minor. It’s a simple, noble, modest vegetable without airs or graces. And to add the culinary equivalent of go-fast stripes is slightly insulting. Freddie must have sensed this because although he tasted the sprout puree, enjoyed the shredded sprout stir fry–the biggest surprise came when he popped one simply steamed sprout into his mouth and declared that sprouts tasted good.
As the challenge unfolds, it takes on a life and significance of its own:
Technology and vegetables make strange bedfellows but something about this challenge really works. Freddie is seven years old, believes (quite rightly) in Father Christmas, the tooth fairy Jeffrey and the heroism of premiership footballers. And now, the Great Big Veg Challenge has taken on similar status in his mind. It is no longer just a blog but a force in its own right. He monitors the visits by people around the globe, danced around the kitchen when someone from Baku browsed and feels a responsibility to his virtual public to bravely face up to the challenge of putting fork to mouth.
Blog readers have gotten involved in the challenge as well, leaving encouragement, advice and recipes for Freddie and his mother, including a recipe for beet risotto.
The recipe was left by one of our visitors like a magic spell lying dormant on the blog. I then printed it off and brought it to life in our kitchen. It’s no longer just a meal delivered by his nagging mother but much much more than that. I have magically disappeared from the equation so the meal isn’t rejected out of hand. It is from one of his many followers and so has to be treated with respect. I won’t pretend that he has stopped being fussy but he has developed a new politeness at the meal table which means that beetroot risotto was eaten with quiet respect.
Freddie and family are only at letter C (cauliflower, courgette, celeriac and carrot), so feel free to check out his progress on the Great Big Vegetable Challenge. Having survived aubergine (eggplant), Brussels sprouts and beets, the worst is surely behind him.