It's been a bad fortnight for vegetables. They've gone from the friendly, healthgiving, albeit slightly goodie-goodie friends in our fridge to secret killers. Children and salad-dodgers are rejoicing as they're proved right, while every persuasive aeroplane-fork that ever was has hit another obstacle on its journey to oesophagus central. Veg is the new chips, doughnuts and turkey twizzlers.
I ought to say now that I am writing this on Monday, and you are reading it any time after Thursday. You might be reading this in 2025 after finding it in an attic, in which case I apologise for the hair in my byline. Either way, the point is that you are in the future and I am in the past, and by Thursday you may well know what has caused the E.coli outbreak. From where I'm sitting, all we know is: it isn't cucumbers, and it probably isn't bean sprouts.
Is anybody else disappointed that it isn't bean sprouts? I think I can do without bean sprouts. My stir fries would be slightly bereft of crunch, but that's basically the only blemish I can think of on an otherwise happily bean sprout-free life. And the benefits - virtual elimination of Gillian McKeith's legacy, never again being disappointed because you thought they were noodles but aren't - definitely outweigh it.
Sweet potatoes, now there we would have a problem. I adore sweet potatoes. They are as close to dessert as one can get while still technically eating a vegetable. It amazes me that more seven-year-olds haven't cottoned on to this fact. The clue's in the name, kids - though I should let you know now that the same can't be said of sugar snap peas.
Butternut squash and pumpkin can masquerade as pudding too, with the right culinary know-how (I find syrup usually does it). I'm also hoping it isn't turnips, because then childhood classic The Giant Turnip would suddenly take on a sinister air. In fact, if the perpetrator turns out to be any root vegetable at all then I think our gastronomic landscape will be all the poorer for it.
Carrots I could easily lose from their in-salads-and-stuff role, but never from their delicious-in-cakes cameo appearances. Likewise cauliflower, because no other veg lends itself quite so well to snuggling down under a blanket of cheese.
In all, I would like to express a wish now that the culprit be none of the following:
Peas - the vanilla of the veg world, basically impossible to dislike.
Beetroot - exciting despite negative effects on wee.
Aubergine - mm, purple.
Courgette - mm, green.
Leek - what would Wales do?
Mushroom - learning to like them is the official mark of adulthood.
Asparagus - ooh, posh.
Rocket - because I'd miss hearing people pronounce it 'rockay'
Sprouts - because actually liking them lends me some caché.
Tomato - quite obviously the King of Vegetables, despite all this 'actually a fruit' nonsense.
I realise this doesn't leave much room for manoeuvre, so I'm offering up a vegetable as sacrifice: green peppers.
Green peppers are conclusively rubbish. They are lesser versions of their red and yellow sisters, and they taste of grass. They are only used in bad student cooking and by people who don't know you can buy the yellow and red ones individually. I would happily send green peppers to Room 101 forever, if it meant people would stop getting ill and salad could keep its rep.
Keep your pecker up, veg.
In which I consider what's in a name
5 days ago