As I have spent most of my adult life trying to get rid of the blubber around my middle, I have attempted most diet/weight loss programs that are available. While all of them were giant failures except NutriSystem – which I couldn’t afford to stay on – I have learned a few things about myself. Growing up I flatly refused to eat any green vegetable. Any of them. Or any other-colored vegetable, actually. A story that goes around my family is that when I was a toddler, my mother attempted to get me to eat peas by burying them in mashed potatoes. And there I was, sitting in my high chair, digging through the potatoes, finding peas and slinging them across the room with a throwing motion Tom Brady would be proud of.  

There are some vegetables that I will never consume because I cannot stand the smell of them. This would be green beans, lima beans, cauliflower and peas. If my nose is even in the same room with these foods, my nose is likely to lead my body to the bathroom to throw up. I do not have a weak stomach; I can watch blood & guts movies, see medical demonstrations, all kinds of gory stuff. But I cannot be around human waste or these particular foods without the gag reflex kicking in big-time. So no, I will not be trying Oprah’s self-promoting, narcissistic, “look at what I did” mashed potatoes infused with cauliflower. I’ll be able to detect the cauliflower and will be off and running.

In my early adult years, I found that I could tolerate broccoli. I really don’t care at all for the stems, but the florets are fine. Once I married into a black family, I decided I could ease any potential racial conflicts by adapting collard greens to my approved veggie list. I will eat them now, but only if they are prepared properly. I have also found I will eat spinach, thanks in large part to subbing spinach leaves for iceberg lettuce in salad, and the fabulous creamed spinach at Boston Market. But I will eat regular chopped spinach too. While experimenting with the Mediterranean diet, I found out I like black olives. I don’t like the green ones, just the black ones.

So let’s add this up…. spinach, broccoli florets, collard greens (cooked properly), olives…. Yeah, I know, that’s not very many veggies and I probably should have dropped dead by now. But at least I’m up to 4 of them.

Along the way, my wife has said a number of times that I would enjoy butternut squash, as it is very closely related to pumpkin and sweet potatoes. During the consultations in preparation for my weight loss surgery, I mentioned this to the nutritionist. She agreed with Netta, adding, “Make sure you roast them.” OK, I’ll play along. I bought a roasting pan, but had a devil of a time finding any butternut squash. Finally, this past Saturday, some showed up at my nearby Walmart Supercenter. I grabbed one. Later I looked up some recipes and found a really simple one: cube & de-seed the squash, toss it in a little olive oil and pepper, throw it in the roasting pan and bake at 400 for half an hour.

Netta and the nutritionist were right. It tasted fantastic, other than the fact that I had added too much pepper. So, great! I’m up to 5 veggies I will eat.

I actually think there are more, but the other ones have been dismissed by holier-than-thou vegans and nutritionists as not being vegetables – tomatoes, corn and potatoes are the ones that I like that immediately come to mind. “Tomatoes are fruit, corn and potatoes are starches,” they sneer. Well, if carrots are vegetables, so are potatoes and corn, as they can all grow side-by-side in the same dirt. If you want to dismiss tomatoes because they grow on a vine like grapes, I can let that slide, although that vine has to come from somewhere.

So now that I have discovered I like butternut squash, I’m just waiting for some do-gooder to come along and pee on my parade by insisting squash is not a vegetable.

I should have kept myself hidden in my self-righteousness. But I had to go and look in Wikipedia. And there it is: “Although technically a fruit, butternut squash is used as a vegetable that can be roasted, sautéed, toasted, puréed for soups such as squash soup, or mashed to be used in casseroles, breads and muffins.”

Now my curiosity is up. With all the know-it-all people who are happy to tell you what is a vegetable and what is not, I decided to look up “vegetable” in Wikipedia while I was there. Dig this definition: “In everyday usage, vegetablesare certain parts of plants that are consumed by humans as food as part of a meal. The term vegetable is somewhat arbitrary, and largely defined through culinary and cultural tradition. It normally excludes other food derived from plants such as fruits, nuts, and cereal grains, but includes seeds such as pulses.”

Alrighty then. “Vegetable” is arbitrary. What does that mean? I’m going back to calling corn, potatoes and tomatoes VEGETABLES, vegans and “I-know-more-than-you-and-I’m-telling-you-what’s-right” do-gooders be damned. All of it is better than eating honey buns, so who cares what I call it?