Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Eat Your Veggies Experiment Part 2: Results

Two weeks ago, CHG posted a piece called Learning to Love Foods You Hate: a How-to Guide for Frugal Eaters. Essentially, it claimed that reconsidering loathed fruits and veggies will make you healthier and cost less money. Then, it gave several ideas on how to go about that mission.

Last week, Rachel and I decided to conduct an experiment to put our theories to the test. You met our testees, Linda (my sister) and Dustin (a friend / Comedy Nerd extraordinaire). They explained which foods they like (pasta), which they hate (almost all veggies), and then you guys gave tons of fantastic suggestions about how to feed them. They included:
  • Juice: “Roasted cauliflower with parm cheese. … Or puree a veggie into some pasta sauce, or zucchini bread.”
  • Kitchen Bitsch: ‘I do think that a lasagne or quiche could be a way to start. If all else fails, deep fry.”
  • TC Byrd: “I'm definitely thinking a red sauce could be useful here.”
  • Katie: “You can pretty much throw zucchini in no matter what you make. … The flavor is so mild and the texture so innocuous, it blends really well and is easy to hide!”
  • Jen: “I have found soup is always good, especially if you serve it with some bread… Pureed foods (soup, dips, sauces, etc) might also avoid texture issues. (That's how I convinced my husband mushrooms weren't Satan's vegetable.)”
Thanks to your ideas, we decided on zucchini bread, zucchini soup, mashed potatoes with cauliflower, a red sauce with a pureed red bell pepper, and eggplant lasagna.

And last night, we conducted our experiment.

Here's how it went down: we served Dustin and Linda five separate courses. They didn’t know what was in them beforehand, and recorded their ratings (from 1 to 10) and impressions after each one. We also had two Control Group members (The Boyfriend and Dustin’s wife J) to ensure that the recipes were, in fact, palatable.

So ... was the food any good? Do Dustin and Linda now like vegetables? Did either of them throw anything at me? Read on to find out the results, along with the recipes, the principles we followed from LtLFYHaHGfFE, and everyone’s reaction to each dish...

Mom’s Zucchini Bread from All Recipes
Principle: Cook the best-reviewed recipe you can find featuring that food.

DUSTIN: 5 - Didn’t really taste like anything to me. It was sort of like not eating anything.

LINDA: 9 – It’s desserty! It tastes like Mom’s banana bread but less sweet. Yum! And, bread is good!

CONTROL GROUP: 9.5 & 8 – “sweet, cinnamony, light,” “yummy.”

Zucchini-Rosemary Soup from Epicurious
(changes: halved the olive oil)
Principle: Understand you don’t have to eat it the way your Ma (or Pa) prepared it.

DUSTIN: 3 – Aftertaste is kind of gross. Mostly garlic or oniony taste up top. Worse over time.

LINDA: 5 – Looks like snot. I can see the onions – no good. (I think she though that the bits of zucchini were scallions. - Kris) I like the croutons, though, and that makes me want to eat it.

CONTROL GROUP: 7 & 6 - “nice rosemary flavor,” “texture is not pleasant, leaves me wanting a substance I can taste and either slurp or chew.”

Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower from Recipe Zaar
(changes: used 31 oz potatoes, 13 oz cauliflower, added extra tablespoon of butter)
Principle: Make it unrecognizable.

DUSTIN: 6 – It tasted pretty normal. I might eat it again.

LINDA: 8 – I only eat mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, and it reminds me of that. Good. I would definitely eat this again.

CONTROL GROUP: 8 & 8.5 – “I like the lumps & pepperyness & butteryness.” “Best mashed potato home-style recipe ever. Just awesome.”

Ziti with Ragu and a Pureed Red Bell Pepper
Principle: Use it in a recipe with foods you love.

DUSTIN: 1 – Do not like taste. Do not like smell. It tastes like grossness. AND I LOVE PASTA. But not this pasta.

LINDA: 2 – I really wanted to like this because it’s after all, pasta. But it smells funky and tastes offensive. Reminds me of licorice.

CONTROL GROUP: 7 & 7 – “nice, sweet, better with grated cheese,” “an excellent sauce.”

Eggplant Lasagna from
(changes: used 1-lb eggplant, added 4 oz. mozzarella, deleted olive oil, mushrooms and onions)
Principle: Try it in an ethnic dish.

DUSTIN: 2 – Again, aftertaste is very not good. Did not like any of it. Just make lasagna.

LINDA: 3 – That funky green stuff ruins the whole thing. I found some celery in it which I like, but it was so mushy. The pasta was good, though. (FWIW, there was no celery in it. - Kris)

CONTROL GROUP: 7.5 & 6 – “interesting flavor, different,” “ a tasty lasagna, but lacked punch and needed some spice.”

How do you feel about this experiment?

DUSTIN: I felt like it only showed you can make inferior versions of food that people might be okay with.

LINDA: Fine, but I’m still hungry.

CONTROL GROUP: “It was yummy.” “I eat anything.”

Do you feel the experimenters tried to accommodate your tastes? Why or why not?

DUSTIN: It made an attempt – except for the pasta. That was just bad.

LINDA: Yes. All the foods were dressed as something I would eat.

CONTROL GROUP: “It was innovative, which is good.” “No. I like spicier, richer tastes.”

Will this change the way you eat (in any capacity) in the future?

DUSTIN: Nope. But you knew that going in.

LINDA: I think I may try zucchini in the future.

CONTROL GROUP: “I am already very open in my eating choices, but I think I will explore even more.” “No.”


I went into the experiment hoping Lin would like three dishes, and Dustin wouldn’t puke. Based on those expectations, I’m pretty happy. Yeah, the pasta sauce was a bust (and how!), but the potatoes and bread went over much better than I anticipated. (They were BY FAR the unhealthiest dishes, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.) That Lin is willing to try zucchini now is just an added bonus.

Ultimately, I think the initial article still holds up. Getting someone to reconsider a food they hate is a tough process, and takes persistence and creativity. But you have to start somewhere. Maybe with a zucchini bread?

We end with two quick semi-confidential notes to readers:
  • I Heart Kale! I made kale pesto. I loved it, but thought it was a bit too strong-flavored for our eaters. Instead, The Boyfriend and I will be feasting on it tonight. Thank you!
  • Watershed! I had every intention of making Sweet Potato Ravioli but couldn’t find wonton wrappers ANYWHERE. Where do you get these things? There are two pounds of sweet potatoes sitting in my pantry that would love to know.

**Same as last week, less-than-charitable criticism will be deleted immediately.**

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Anonymous said...

Well I have to give them points for trying new things.

I always tell my kids they have to try one bite of something new. They've learned they like some new things. Because you never know until you try.

Karen said...

Won Ton wrappers are in the produce section of most grocery stores, usually by the salad dressings and/or refrigerated Asian noodles.

Kristine said...

I would have used some tried-and-true recipes, not something I've never made before. Still interesting, and kudos to them for trying new foods.

The sweet potato ravioli sounds interesting. Maybe could be done with pasta dough as well?

Anonymous said...

Our wonton wrappers are in the produce section..usually right near all the vegetarian stuff (veggie dogs, etc.) Good luck! They're great little things (put them in mini muffin cups and you can put just about anything in them, bake them and have an instant portable appetizer for parties!

Kris said...

The produce section! By the Asian/vegetarian stuff! I'm an idiot. Thanks, you guys.

Ang said...

I think throwing a handful of frozen spinach (the loose kind from Trader Joe's is best) into pasta sauce adds some nutrition and doesn't change the pasta eating experience too much. It IS green so people who loathe veggies might not even try it. It's just one of my favorite tricks when I am making a quick bowl of pasta and sauce for dinner.

krista said...

rockin' mexican-ish sweet potato burrito recipe:

black beans, sweet potatoes, corn, refried beans...much more. vegetarian, cheap, healthy AND delicious! i made this two days ago--it even gets better over time. great for leftovers!

Amy B said...

Dustin and Linda sound like"super tasters", i.e. their taste buds pick up tastes the rest of us don't. I bet they think cilantro tastes like soap. I think "hiding"flavors doesn't work with this group because the "after taste" of a mixture offends them. I realized once, the part of a meal I enjoyed the most was picking perfectly sauteed mushrooms out of the pan (until they cooked too much and became soggy.) Mild vegetables, perfectly cooked and served without sauces, may be the best route.

kittiesx3 said...

I've learned that for me (one of the pickiest eaters I know), it's not just the taste, it's the texture. Although having said that, I really dislike the strong-tasting vegetables. So for example, I will eat raw cauliflower but never cooked and especially not in mashed potatoes.

I do revisit foods I don't like--now I can tolerate blueberries, but that took decades! Brussel sprouts are still nasty disgusting things to me, as are cooked kale, all forms of spinach and most squashes.

Kudos on a great experiment, I read the initial article and follow-up with great interest.

I Heart Kale said...

Yay! Glad you liked the pesto.

Roasting vegetables seems to make them a little more palatable to veg-haters--they get sweeter and caramelize, especially more watery vegetables like zucchini. So that's usually the first technique I turn to when I'm cooking something for skeptics.