A perfect sea urchin

The Pantry Corner

Welcome to the wide world of food, nutrition, and cooking. To return to the main blog, just click here.

An Age Old Question

Do vegetables have a gender? Of course fruits are a plant's equivalent of a uterus, so maybe they're female, but that is not what I mean. I mean, and notice I said "gender" not sex. Of course plants have sex, but do vegetables and fruits have a gender in terms of who likes them, buys, them, and eats them?

I think about this a lot when I shop at Your DeKalb Farmers Market. At the string bean bin, the buyers are nearly always female. Women cook string beans, nibble on them, put them in salads. Similarly, when field peas are in season, it's women who line up for some beans that will "cook up pretty." Anything that cooks up pretty is female.

By contrast, the beet bin the rear of the market is a male preserve. The men belly up, grab their red beets, and go. What the men do with their red beets is beyond me. Some juice them. Juicing is a waste of fiber. The men may rost the beets like baked potatoes. They beets may end up in the microwave. I doubt the men make beet salad. That's a more female thing.

Rutabega and turnips are co-ed. If you want downhome food, you crave rutabega. Rutabega is soul food for African Americans and Ashkeazi Jews and any one who can remember from where they come if it's Europe or the United States. Carrots are co-ed as well. Everyone just likes them. Men juice them though.

What baffles me is black radishes. Are they male or female? I buy them. I am female. I love the kick they give a pan of roasted root vegetables. Enough said. I looked on ChowHound's Home Cooking Board for an answer to my question. Well, black radishes are co-ed but then again, scratch cooks are an odd breed.

Back in the real world, I've seen women buying Cara Cara (red or pink navel) oranges for their husbands. Men, like my dad, like to eat big pieces of fruit out of hand or stuck on a schmitzig (a fruit slicer). Males have a much saner and less complicated attitude toward sweets, and some like fruit and eat it without guilt or fear. Some fear it because it is sweet so go figure.

I guess I'll keep my eyes peeled as I shop in the market. Food and amateur sociology are a good mix.

This is an odd Sunday because I don't have my Shabbos dinner planned out. This is a prerequisite to the weekly shopping trip at the DeKalb Farmers Market. I know I should make more bread, to get rid of the flour before Passover. I also should find something to do with an extra corn bread that is in my freezer. I can't make it all the way into April on two loaves of spinach bread that I made last week. The bread issue is crowding out my usual cooks' imagination. I want calabazza bread. Calabazza are cheap. Part of me also wants spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash are becoming expensive due to the high price of oil. Part of me knows there is a moqua squash that is past its prime in the bottom of the refridgerator. If I needed a beta entree, it would be fine in soup. I will need a beta vegetable.

Usually this means I need collards or kale, preferably pre-bagged. This is kind of a no brainer. Maybe collards, moqua, and onion would take care of the moqua and the beta veggie. Maybe a moqua and dried tomato bake or moqua, carrot, rutabega bake would be good. OK, that still leaves Shabbos. I guess I'm making barley salad with radicchio and then what...Well, it looks like there's half a pound of spinach penne about which I knew nothing. Well, I have an idea for a salad with either cauliflour or yellow beets and speckeled lima beans. The cranberry beans are a bit too fragile for salads, but I could always try cooking them with salt. Now, this doesn't sound too bad at all.

Eileen H. Kramer -- March 6, 2011