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Our Cooking Ruts

Posts: 777
Location: Soutwest Ohio
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I ran into a few recipes the other day while looking something up regarding colonial rotisseries and I started thinking about how much of a rut most of us are in when it comes to our vegetables and how we prepare them. Just as some examples, rhubarb and cucumber.

Most people I know think of rhubarb almost exclusively as a dessert item. Pies and cakes are almost the only place I see it. Once in a while it shows up in a jam. The short list of recipes I found included rhubarb Wine! I can only imagine how that would taste. I started to wonder about making a sort of sweet and sour sauce to go with meats out of rhubarb or else cooking it with the meat like is sometimes done with peaches.

The cucumbers suffer a similar limitation in most of our diets. Raw on salads or perhaps little cucumber sandwiches. If we prepare it at all, it is as a pickle. Apparently in colonial times it saw heat a fair bit more than it does now. Fried cucumbers (not to be mistaken for fried pickles, which are becoming more common), baked cucumber, even cucumber in warm soups. (I've seen it in cold soups in the modern age)

I started wondering just how many of our foods are we doing this to? Is it that the ways we use them are just what happen to work best with those tastes and textures or is it more a matter of habit. I suspect it is just habit. I'm really curious about what sorts of odd ways to use vegetables people know of. Offhand, I can only think of fish and lettuce soup. Do you have any unique recipes or know of interesting ways people used vegetables that is now uncommon or unheard of?
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Location: Cleveland, Ohio
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Hi there! I am new to this forum, brought here because of Linda's book - which I am super excited about. Welcome Linda! I love to garden and always wish I knew what to do to use everything from the veggies that so much of them goes in the compost. I use what I can when it is fresh, for juicing and making smoothies, but they are far from perfected. I also wish I knew a way to use Dandelion leaves that the bitterness was somewhat lost. But I couldn't help but reply - I don't know any old time ways of using cukes, as Linda might, but I eat 1-3 cakes a day, most days, and always wish there were MORE of them in our winter co-op produce. I end up buying cases of them when I do a week long juice fast or cleanse once a year, usually in the late winter. I love them for their alkalinity and high water content. I love to cut them up in my daily salad, throw them in the Vitamix for smoothies or a cooling soup (especially with celery and/or avocado!) or use 2 when I make a big batch of juice. If you don't have a Vitamix, cucumbers are awesome in just about any blender. They are the most alkaline vegetable on the planet (As far as I know - I guess I'm no expert!) and are high in potassium and vitamin K, and also a good source of vitamins A&C and a and ß carotenes, and lutein. I would love to learn different ways of using them too, if Linda knows some (or anybody!), because I love trying new/old creative ideas.
Thank you to Paul Wheaton's emails, which is how I found out about this forum. Blessings! ~Mallory
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Hi D. Logan,

I like to make rhubarb pickles, which I serve with charcuterie and cheese. Cooked cucumber is a common Chinese dish and one that I grew up eating.

My book actually tackles this very subject - how other cultures use vegetables in ways we've never thought of. Our leanings toward food are very much borne out of habit or tradition, and unless you grew up in a multicultural family, traveled a lot, or have a curious palate, I think it's normal to feel a little stumped when you're always seeing, eating, or cooking the same vegetables (or parts of vegetables) every day.
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