A few years ago, co-workers Sharon and John Fitzhugh gave me a photo John took at the Hal and Mal's St. Patrick's parade in Jackson. It was of one of the Sweet Potato Queens' floats. A banner displays "Vegetable Woman" with a portrait of a ubiquitous Sweet Potato Queen, whose nom de plume is always Tammy (and she has red hair).
This picture is permanently taped to one wall of my work cubicle. I relay all this because I, a true Tammy and a true strawberry blonde, have been accused of being a rabid Vegetable Woman. That has not always been the case. For most of my life, I have had a love-hate relationship with vegetables.
When I was a child, summer was the time to head out to the garden, pick a thumb-sized cucumber, polish it and rub off the prickly bits with the hem of my T-shirt, and bite into its fresh, crisp, watery goodness accented with salt from the shaker I filched from my grandmother's dining table. I could eat my weight in butterbeans topped with a dollop of ketchup (don't cringe, you probably ate weird combinations as a child, too).
You could keep cream-style corn, but hand me shoepeg or corn on the cob, and I was totally happy. Yet anything leafy and green made my stomach turn, unless it was salad topped generously with Italian or green goddess dressing.
Something happened in my mid-30s, though, and now, every time I scan a menu, I look at the sides to see if they have greens. There's nothing like down-home cooked turnips or collards, but I leave those to be prepared by the experts.
At home, I enjoy sauteed spinach. It's a delicious side dish to practically anything, and it doesn't give your kitchen - yea, your entire house - a decidedly old-sock smell. Even if you think you don't like cooked spinach, the seasoning and Feta cheese give it a little urbane polish.
This is basically a recipe I got at a Weight Watchers meeting a few years ago. I've misplaced the actual recipe, so measurements are my own. For the seasoning, I use either frozen chopped onion or frozen seasoning blend (mostly bell peppers, onion and celery), straight out of the bag. If you don't already, you should have these two bags in your freezer anyway. Who wants to cut up and weep over an onion for just a spoonful or two of seasoning, not to mentioning covering and storing the rest of said onion? You can use plain crumbled Feta cheese or one of the flavored varieties. Experiment!
2 cups baby spinach (I get the prewashed, bagged kind)
2 tablespoons chopped frozen onion or seasoning blend
1 tablespoon crumbled Feta cheese
Very thinly coat the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil or use olive oil spray and warm over medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the onion or seasoning blend and cook on medium about a minute or so, until the onions look translucent. Add the spinach; it will cook down quickly. Stir the spinach and seasoning, and once it's wilted and cooked down,turn off the heat and sprinkle the Feta cheese over the spinach. Serve immediately. This serves 1.