What is it about broccoli that political conservatives hate so much? From the first President Bush’s statement in 1990 that “I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” to the current one in this week’s health care Supreme Court case by Justice Antonin Scalia.
On Tuesday, Scalia asked: “Could you define the market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli responded that buying food in the supermarket is “unpredictable and often involuntary,” unlike purchasing health insurance. Well, I feel that I need to defend the wonderful vegetable that is broccoli and mention that the government DOES affect the marketing and purchasing of lots of foods, to the detriment of poor little broccoli and lots of other healthy foods.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) originated in Italy about 2000 years ago and is a member of the cabbage family. It is high in Vitamin C, as well as dietary fiber, something most Americans don’t get enough of, especially from real food sources. It also contains a good amount of vitamins K, B6, and B2 (riboflavin). And, broccoli has multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. Something for all of these older men that don’t like broccoli to think about is that a high intake of broccoli has been found to cut the risk of aggressive prostate cancers.
And it is misguided to think that the government doesn’t already have a significant role in deciding what Americans eat through the Farm Bill. Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Mark Bittman have all written a lot more about this subject than I can state here. But, we currently subsidize the production of corn and soy which is then turned into cheap highly-processed foods such as snack cakes and soda. We don’t subsidize the growers of nutritious fresh vegetables, making them a lot more expensive in your local grocery than the junk food. Corn is the source of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) and soy is used to produce the cheap soy oil that is used in most processed foods. My tax dollars are used to subsidize both these crops even though our family tries to avoid HFCS and soy oil. So, I am in essence being forced to pay for HFCS by the government. I would rather my tax dollars go to making broccoli cheaper.
Although we are solidly in the lower 99%, we, unlike lots of Americans, are lucky enough to be able to afford healthy food for our family. So, we go ahead and buy the unsubsidized fruits and vegetables. But, it would be beneficial to everyone’s health if the veggies were cheaper than the Little Debbies, Lucky Charms, and Cokes. In case you have not yet realized it, I am a political liberal, the bleeding heart kind. So, since the government is going to subsidize things, I would like it to be things that help people, especially children, not benefit just the fat-cat corporations. Not that I agree with everything in Michelle Obama’s children’s health crusade, but she is trying. As a part of that, she is coming out with a cookbook soon that focuses on healthy foods including vegetables and here is a link to some of the her recipes including Broccoli Soup.
Now, time for a delicious broccoli recipe that even the first Pres. George Bush would like. Several years ago, I watched Ina Garten make roasted broccoli and added that to our family’s vegetable rotation. Since then, I have also seen Jamie Oliver and Alton Brown make their versions of various roasted veggies. You can go to the Food Network recipe archives and find literally dozens of roasted broccoli recipes. Here is the simple version we make.
(Serves 4-6 depending on appetites)
- 2 to 3 heads of raw broccoli (or go the easy route and get a bag of the raw florets)
- olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
- Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart.
- Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan with a lip on it large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle the broccoli a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.
Some people like to add a bit of minced garlic, sliced almonds, or pine nuts to the broccoli before roasting or put a bit of shredded parmesan or lemon juice on them before serving. But, most of the time, we go with the simple version.
I recommend cooking a lot of veggies by oven roasting. Cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, white potatoes, and sweet potatoes are all excellent made by oven roasting. Just adjust the roasting time to suit the vegetable. For sweet potatoes, instead of olive oil, salt and pepper, I use a bit of melted real butter, pumpkin pie spice and some maple syrup.
Enjoy your broccoli and be healthy!