What Can We Do With the Color Green?

I wish by some miraculous turn of events, I could say “Abracadabra”… and poof… America would fall in love with vegetables as I did – decades ago. I resist owning how much of an anomaly I really am (because I LOVE VEGETABLES).

According to a study presented in this past Sunday’s NY Times feature magazine article “Broccoli’s Image Makeover” (11/3/13), “…children were only part of the challenge…[The larger problem was that their] parents who actually bought the groceries were, by and large, part of a generation that viewed broccoli as brown, squishy and smelly.”

In a similar way that pork underwent a makeover years ago as “the other white meat”, there is a fantastic effort underway to rebrand broccoli as the “other” cool green veggie (vs. kale, which has somehow won the hearts and minds of foodies everywhere). And the top advertising agency Victors & Spoils, whose clients include Coca-Cola and General Mills, is the one who has risen to the challenge of the great broccoli makeover. Lookout, broccoli is now being unveiled as “The meat of any salad,” and tasting so good it “Melts Butter.”


What got me about the article was the honest grappling with the question of how to turn the public onto broccoli – and vegetables generally, for that matter. What is it that switches on in a person to engender a desire for healthy foods, and vegetables in particular? We “know” they are good for us, and we’d be better off eating them every day. But somehow, they’ve become the stuff we don’t enjoy or want to be bothered with. Most Americans fork them over to the side of the plate, if they’re there at all. The meat, potatoes, pasta, burgers, pizza or fries wins out – every time.

Green and Purple BroccoliMarketing to the rescue!? Let the advertisers create our new reality. Shower us with the message and we, the people, will start to believe it! Cripes! Is the answer to how to turn people on ALL about advertising? Hello America, where the ad – subliminal and overt – is the gravity of our decision making. Is it possible that with enough brain washing, plastering of cool billboards, broccoli will become worthy of being blackened on the grill, robust enough to plop into salads and pasta dishes everywhere, yet supple enough to succumb to finger-licking melted mounds of butter? Will Americans WANT broccoli on their dinner plates? What if Dr. OZ did a show on the virtues of broccoli? Would millions of viewers scramble out the next day to their supermarkets to purchase the venerable vegetable if the Great and Powerful OZ said to eat it?

I think the answer is yes. As a former yoga teacher of 20 years I can remember the DAY Oprah uttered the word yoga. When Sting and Madonna landed on her show proclaiming they were Astanga yogis, Yoga became a household word nearly overnight! Yoga mats were sold everywhere from Marshalls to COSTCO, and my adult school classes – previously fairly well attended – were sold out by the next semester! And was it a bad consequence that a healthy practice for body and mind became the poster child exercise of the Yuppie generation? We live in a world molded by media, not nature.

While I can’t deny the zeitgeist effect advertising can create, something irks me here that I cannot quite put my finger on. I fell in love with vegetables because I had the chance to eat them growing in my garden. I grew to admire them as marvels of nature, perfectly packaged, defying any need to box, bag, improve or label them. Because of my Yoga practice, I fell in love with my body – from the inside out; appreciated its inner wisdom and its life force. I began to recognize the biological rhythms of the human body as interconnected with the biological rhythms of the earth. Food became sustenance worthy of fueling my body, which after all, gifted me every day with life. Why would I want to violate its life force with fake foods and junk?

We live on the blue-green planet called Earth. Green forests are the lungs of our planet. Tell me, is green food not healing and natural? When I see a magnificent batch of greens from my CSA delivery or at the farmers market, I just want to dive into them. My plate of food doesn’t look complete without them. What can I do with the color green was NEVER a question for me. Broccoli flowerets, that look like trees, were fun foods I fed my young daughters to eat, along with faces they’d construct with red pepper lips, snap pea eyebrows, mushroom cap eyes, and carrot noses…not to mention sprout hair.

WHAT CAN WE DO WITH THE COLOR GREEN? Isn’t this a backwards question? Instead, we should be asking, “What do we do with day-glow colored foods and drinks like blue, orange and red Gatorade, Vitamin Waters, M & Ms and cupcakes, day glow sodas and cheesy chips, orange plastic cheeses and blue yogurts?” Are we so far afield that we don’t remember that REAL food is unbelievably colorful to begin with? REAL green is beautiful, as is red, orange, purple, white, brown, and yellow. (Did you just picture fruits and vegetables that go with each color?)

Here’s the default way I’ve eaten broccoli and served it to my children growing up. (You can use the broccoli stem, just cut or peel the hard outer skin, the stem is really crunchy, mild, and is also good eaten uncooked.) Steam broccoli until its color heightens to a bright green. Go for vibrancy and a bit of crunch. The longer you over steam vegetables, the more you kill them – the duller and mushier they get.

Put steamed broccoli in a bowl and drizzle with BRAGG’s Liquid Amino Acids and good olive oil. Mix gently. The combo of BRAGG’s and olive oil is a winner. To this combination you can get fancier, with steamed carrots, green beans, kale, peas, and even sautéed mushrooms.

Go forth and spread the word…green is where it’s at, along with the other colors of the rainbow, as long as it’s REAL. And the more we’re exposed to eating simple and properly prepared vegetables, the more we’ll appreciate how amazing they really taste, how magnificent they truly are, and how easy it is to put them on the table!

May the force (of broccoli) be with you.

Photo credits (used with permission under Creative Commons license):

Broccoli close-up – allicatmar
Green and purple broccoli – Brian D. Luster
Colorful vegetables – joannova