End vegetable genocide

Aaron Stein-Chester

There is always one question that comes up with my roommates as we scavenge through the paltry, Tupperware-entombed remains of the week’s leftover meals: “Dude, can I put this plastic in the microwave?”

It’s one of those questions that seems so obvious, but that no one ever has a straight answer to. Plenty of people do it and live to eat another microwave meal.

Well, now the Glad Products Company, which also brought you trash bags, is now giving America a resounding “yes” to the age-old question.

They think “microwave safe plastic bags” are a wonderful idea to revolutionize the American kitchen and get people to eat their vegetables. These new, disposable plastic bags are specifically designed for cooking vegetables in the microwave.

The finely-targeted commercial goes something like this: “Over-worked, early-middle-aged mothers: are you tired of cleaning up that extra pan of boiled broccoli? You haven’t got the time! Well, now just drop that green junk in this souped-up Ziploc bag and toss it in the microwave!”

I understand that the Glad Company believes that they’re helping a lot of folks out here, but this product does the opposite. I know I’ve always trusted makers of industrial plastics when it comes to cooking for my family.

Even so, the network of internet-savvy homemakers that is the “Mom-Blogosphere” is buzzing with how time saving and convenient these disposable microwave bags are. According to many accounts, the taste verdict is relatively positive too. “Some days,” says one, “you just don’t have the time.”

Granted, this is a step up from frozen veggies because cooks are using fresh produce. True: I’m no working professional or mother (or whoever happens to be household head-chef), and I don’t know how hard it is to juggle work, family, and dinner.

I do know, however, that cooking delicious vegetables is not rocket science, does not take very long, and does not require a plastic bag.

This Glad product saddens me, not only on account of its extreme wastefulness and the questionable mingling of plastic and food, but because of the way it points to a greater problem in America: the way we mistreat our vegetables.

Vegetables on the American plate are relegated to sixth-man status. Would you stick a succulent piece of tri-tip steak or pork loin in a plastic bag and throw it in the microwave? Not a chance.

All it takes is a trip to a good ethnic restaurant to taste some of the ways that other countries prepare their vegetables. They can be found smothered in explosively flavored sauces, stir fried, or steamed to a beautiful crunch so that the natural flavors of the vegetables themselves are allowed to sing.

But what is the American cooking legacy? Boil the life out of those green stalks. America already has the highest murder rate among developed nations. Imagine if vegetables were added to that statistic.

It’s no wonder why kids don’t eat vegetables. The over-cooked, mangled green bodies, strewn lifelessly about the white porcelain of American dinner tables like so many war-torn corpses.

Even Dad secretly tosses them in the sink after he clears the table to avoid explaining himself to his wife and sleeping on the couch. This sort of vegetable tension doesn’t have to happen, and a plastic bag is not going to help.

As a matter of fact, it has the potential to make things worse. Cooking food in a plastic bag doesn’t exactly show your family how much you love them. I understand time is an issue in the home for working families, but it’s no excuse.

Throw those fresh, little green guys in a pan with some oil, garlic, salt and pepper and stir-fry them in a non-stick pan for seven to ten minutes, adding broth or water to get the pan flavor to steam through the veggies. Or just let them simmer in a pan covered for ten minutes or so. It’s not a recipe. Just get a little creative.

Mix the veggies in with the meat if you have to. A cook doesn’t have to ostracize the elements of his meal to different pans. The difference is mind-blowing, especially considering the small difference in time. Non-stick pans take no time at all to clean and yield much more interesting results. Even a cursory Internet search will yield something easy and delicious to inspire you.

So, here’s a simple rule: Bags are for storing. Pans are for cooking. Please keep these two universes separate. Stop murdering vegetables.

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