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beware of dream-killing vegetables

August 18, 2009

Growing up, we were always encouraged to eat our vegetables, along with everything else on our plate.  I never cared for them much back then, but have since become an eater and enjoyer of all things veggie… Well, most vegetables… There is still one that I loathe: the eggplant.  I love the color of eggplant – that beautiful deep purple hue.  It’s the actual vegetable that ruined my hopes and killed my dreams.

I was seven and all I talked about was being a ballerina.  I was trying to convince my parents to let me take ballet classes.  One night around this time, Mom decided to try something new and made Eggplant Parmesan for supper.  I took one bite and that was all I could choke down.  It wasn’t my mom’s cooking; the vegetable didn’t agree with my pallet.

In our family, we were required to eat the food that was served.  “This is not a restaurant,” Mom or Dad would remind us at least once a day. “We don’t do special orders.  Eat what is in front of you and be grateful for the food you have.”  We ballerinalearned quickly enough that if we didn’t eat what was on our plates, we went hungry.  Not only that, whatever was left on our plate would be our next meal.  I was well aware of the consequences of refusing to eat my supper, but I couldn’t do it.

Dad did everything he could think of to get me to eat my food.  Finally he pulled out a fail-proof, at least in his mind, tactic.  “Cecilia,” he said. “Did you know ballerinas eat Eggplant Parmesan?  If you want to be a ballerina when you grow up, you will have to eat Eggplant Parmesan too.  You might as well get used to it now.”

I remember being appalled.  “Then I’m not going to be a ballerina!” I told him and stubbornly refused to eat my meal.  I was rather gullible and believed everything I was told, especially if it was coming from Dad.  I honestly thought I could never be a ballerina because I wasn’t willing to eat Eggplant Parmesan.

I don’t remember how the evening turned out.  I think Mom took pity on me and didn’t make me finish my food or eat it at my next meal, although I’m fairly confident I went to bed hungry and mourning the loss of my ballet career.  It took a few years before I realized Dad’s statement wasn’t entirely true, but by then it was too late to resurrect my dream of being a prima ballerina.

Over the years, I’ve stayed away from the vegetable that robbed my seven-year-old self of seeing her dream come to fruition.  I decided to move on last year and I tried eggplant for the first time in twenty-two years.  I disliked it as much as I did the first time.  And so I can move on with the satisfaction that I still loathe the dream-killing vegetable.

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