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Vegetable education: Astonishment at the grocery checkout

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

It's happened more times than I can count. I'm checking out at my local mega-mart and the teenage checkout person holds up one of my vegetables and asks, "What is this?" I've long since learned to swallow my shock and simply answer. But every single time I leave thinking I need to email the store management to suggest mandatory fruit and vegetable education classes for staff.

It's not like I'm buying obscure varieties of produce; the local mega-mart stocks only standard fare, really. I can't possibly be the only person buying avocados and artichokes and (infrequently stocked) papayas.

Vegetable education: Astonishment at the grocery checkout Even when the checkout kids can identify a piece of produce, they still sometimes get the variety wrong. Standard yellow onions do look different from the sweets, and there's a significant shape difference between the beefsteak tomatoes and the romas. I know I am not imagining this. Yet, when I am bold to correct the checkout kid so that I can pay the correct price, I am just as often met with a blank stare of incredulity that I would dare question their work as I am with exasperated sighs that he or she then has to go back and correct the error and sheesh, what difference does $1.50 a pound (in their favor) make anyway? A lot, deary, when you are feeding a family, a lot.

Some days, I think I am the only person who feeds her children fresh vegetables. Oh, I'm not, of course. I know that. But it seems many kids can more confidently spot the difference in iPod versions at 50 feet than they can differentiate broccoli from cauliflower. Do they know that crudités can be a healthy snack, or do they think it's a reference to vulgar behavior?

It's one of those things I'll just have to accept about my weekly grocery shopping, I think. But I know these kids are really missing out on some great stuff. The sublime flavor of steamed artichoke, ripe mango with a squeeze of fresh lime, the bite of fresh ginger in a stir-fry, or the earthiness of a wild mushroom soup. Mmmmm.

Admittedly, my kids don't eat all the vegetables I bring home, but they do pretty well. I'll just have to keep working on my kids with these delicious foods…and hopefully educate a few checkout kids along the way.

Points and Prizes Keyword: ROMAS worth 50 points good through 02/10/08.

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