Broccoli you’re doing it all wrong!

PhotographyEveryone of us has their “person.”  You know what I mean.  Well, if you watch Grey’s Anatomy you do anyway.  Your PERSON.  The one that you run to, who gets you, who makes you feel like YOU even when things aren’t what you want them to be.  The person who you trust, who makes you feel secure, who becomes a guiding force in the trajectory of your life story.  Across time some of us may have more than one PERSON, but I don’t think I have ever known anyone to have PEOPLE (multiples of their PERSON) at the same time.  Yes we all have our “group” or shall we say “posse” but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m referring to THE.  ONE.  YOUR.  PERSON.

Where am I headed here?  Well it seems that my original intent of writing a blog post about BROCCOLI has now turned into a life discussion of who your “person” is.  And that little side trip is something you can thank my grandfather for.  Because HE was my person.  I love all of my family members, and with any luck at all they won’t get too offended when I say I had a challenging childhood.  I mean I might warn you all as if you didn’t know that I was a precocious child.  One who managed skills like math with ease (ask my mother about my skills….before my age was even into double digits my math skills led to a very awkward moment (for her) when I asked if I had been a “preemie.”  Apparently October minus April didn’t quite equal nine months no matter how young I was!!).  So, admittedly, maybe I brought a lot of the challenges to the table on my own back.  With time I am sure I might mention more of those stories, but the road tonight leads to my grandfather…yes I think that’s where this stroll was headed (god it doesn’t take much to get me lost does it?)

My grandfather was MY “person.”  A wonderful sort he was.  Worked at the local hospital in maintenance.  Married a wonderful (if sometimes dotty) woman who could make the world’s BEST sweet raisin bread (until my grandfather’s diabetes removed sugar from her kitchen and ruined EVERYTHING including that wonderful bread).  She gave him the most wonderful group of children who then went on to spread the gene pool even further (which of course is how I was blessed to come into this world).  He liked dogs.  And cars.  At one point in life he liked his beer and then later again, not so much (well I’m not so sure that he lost the taste for it as much as became deeply involved in his church where alcohol was evil).  He was a man who enjoyed nature and liked to camp.  His wood working shop was his sanctuary for most of the time I was alive to know, and later in life the photography bug bit him HARD!!!  Thankfully he had a certain skill with it as well.

He was a well loved man, not just by his family, but by the whole community I grew up in. Solid, generous and completely UNLIKE me QUIET.  The old saying “still waters run deep” was never more truly applied to a human being than in his case.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not nominating him for sainthood.  I loved the man, but there had to be some faults (I’m having trouble finding them right now….  but I know I did hear him yell “Saviour help us!!!!” maybe twice in my life time, lol).

Whenever things got rough for me, I would run straight to him.  Unlike that Grey’s anatomy version though, it wasn’t usually to talk.  Just being near him calmed me, and my world would make sense again.  As I said.  He was my person.  The centre of my existence in many ways.  Still today, almost two decades since he was taken from us, I think of him often.  Some times I hear the sound of his laugh erupt from my throat when I loose voluntary control and find something funny.  Some times I hit a pot hole while driving and think to my self “oh, saviour help us” (his favourite expression of exasperation).  Other times I’ll just be puttering in my shed when I’ll see one of his tools which I still keep, and I simply loose my place in the space time continuum and am a young boy again standing at his side, being told to stay away from the saw blade, the saw dust at my feet and the smell of stain and varnish heavy in my nostrils. Some of my most memorable moments were spent in his workshop and I wouldn’t be who I am without those experiences.

Tonight I had another of those moments.  Working in my kitchen, portioning up some broccoli, planning a post about how “you’ve been doing this dead wrong” and trying to figure out how to tie it all together, I almost heard his voice in my ear saying “waste no want not.”  That is how I came to decide to dedicate this post to him.  My person.  John Louis Rowe, the guy everyone simply called “Jack.”

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest….. lets talk about broccoli.  You know….the cornerstone of healthy eating.  It’s green, healthy and nutritious.  Steamed, roasted, boiled, covered in butter or hollandaise.  Added to a stir fry, or used in  soup or hidden in a dish served to an unsuspecting toddler.  Its a part of everyone’s life.  BUT.  it’s also that vegetable that so many people don’t wanna eat.  “there’ll be no dessert until you finish your broccoli” is a phrase everyone has heard at least once!!!  So lets take another look at the vegetable that’s been a staple in most kitchens for years!!

TheIMG_7067 broccoli you get at your grocery store can come in many formats.  Frozen florets, fresh florets, fresh broccoli “crowns” and of course, the way we quite often see it, fresh whole broccoli.  I don’t know how you usually buy yours….  but I don’t usually buy frozen.  Of course I hate paying a premium for having someone else cut up my food, so fresh florets don’t usually follow me home either.  Occasionally when fresh broccoli “crowns” are available at a decent price I may buy them, but let’s be honest, the most usual purchase?  Fresh whole broccoli.  And this is where the problem begins.

Really, truly, honestly.  All anyone wants is the florets.  That’s the whole point of IMG_7068broccoli right?? It’s the only usable part after all.  That wonderful tender blossoming end of the broccoli.  I mean, that’s why the florets cost more isn’t it?  Right here is where I heard my pop’s voice saying “waste not want not.”  Yes, I know this is NOT the 1920’s and 30’s.  We aren’t in the midst of the great depression.  I mean I can go to the grocery store any time I want and buy more.  I am not my grandmother.  I don’t hoard dollar store items.  I have never bought Folgers instant coffee by the case because I heard a rumour that the cost was going to go up due to a drought in the coffee producing countries. Honestly.  Her fear of “being without” has left our family with a lifetime supply of toilet paper.  (I’m sure that my parents are still trying to finish her “stash” more than a decade after she’s left us).  But I have to say, there’s more to broccoli than the florets.  Have you never stood at your counter having cut the florets away and wondered “why am I throwing away all this?”  Well I have.  Thanks to Todd, I’ve discovered YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!!!   You’ve been doing this wrong all your life!!!  Depending on how much energy you have, there are a several different options.

IMG_7069It’s Tuesday evening, you’ve just cut off the florets for your dinner.  You have the broccoli stems starring at you from the counter top but……  GOD IT’S BEEN A TOUGH DAY!!!!  You are already on your second glass of shiraz, and you have an early morning shift headed your way like a freight train and you really.  can’t.  even.  It’s soo easy to just toss those stems in the trash (ok, maybe the compost pile that”s the best you can manage right?)  WRONG!!!!!  Take a ziplock freezer bag and just toss them into it and put it in the freezer.  You’ve now just started a pile of deliciousness which will become a wonderful vegetable stock in the near future…..

On Thursday you  have broccoli again.  and those damn  stems are sitting there and as you reach to toss them in the trash you have pangs of guilt at being so wasteful.  But you’ve eaten far too much soup lately, you know you won’t be making veggie stock anytime soon.  What else can you do?  Well, tonight take the time to spruce up your salad with a little trick.  Take a vegetable peeler and remove the tough woody exterior of the broccoli stem, slice the tender crunchy inside of the stalk into rounds and then dice them into small cubes.  You now have them most wonderful, flavourful crunchy bits to add to your salad.  Like that crunch from a fresh radish without the peppery bite, and your salad has gone from blah to yum!!!  Not having salad?  Don’t loose hope.These diced broccoli bits also make a great addition to whatever soup, stew or stir-fry you are creating as well.

Untitled designWhat if you aren’t a salad fan though??  What else can you do with these leftover IMG_7071broccoli stems?  Well, I know that a lot of people hate leftovers, but don’t despair.  There are things you can do.  Again, take a vegetable peeler, use it to remove the tough woody outer skin of the broccoli stems.  then take that juicy crunchy delicious centre flesh cut into sticks with your kitchen knife.  Now you have another alternative for a healthy snack.  Instead of celery sticks you have BROCCOLI sticks!!!!  At 30 calories per 100g not only is it delicious and healthy, it’s low calorie as well!!!  Portioned into 100g servings in sandwich bags, if you keep them in your fridge you are always ready should a craving hit!!!

Crunchy, healthy and low calorie even the lowly broccoli stem has a meaningful place in the weekly meal plan.  While I won’t call it the superhero of the vegetable world, I will say it is far more versatile than maybe you thought……..  So save your broccoli stems from the trash or compost bin and make it useful!!!!  Do Broccoli RIGHT!  Enjoy the broccoli goodness today!!!!!

In Memory of my “person”.  John Louis Rowe.

Never forgotten.


Thanks for reading.


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