Lentils: A Love Story
July 19th, 2016
I consider myself to be a fairly adventurous eater, but I do draw certain lines. I don’t do mushrooms, wouldn’t eat sushi if you paid me and, until recently, avoided lentils at all costs. But that was because, for most of my life, my only frame of reference for lentils was brown lentils. You know, the big, chunky ones that taste like dirt. I continue to insist that those aren’t really food.
But several months ago, I was (re)introduced to the brown lentil’s more delicate and user-friendly cousin — the split red lentil. I had met split lentils during a year-long stay in India after grad school. They’re called “dahl” over there and often appear as a nice smushy splop of yum on a plate piled high with other delicacies like butter chicken and tandoori naan. Somehow, though, I’d manage to forget that those were lentils until I happened across a recipe for a lentil soup with Indian spices. Eureka! They’re fabulous!
It’s nice to discover a new food, and it’s funny to look at how your family shapes your eating habits. For example, I never ate broccoli prior to getting married. Thanks to a deep-seated and aggressive prejudice against the verdant veggie held by my mother, broccoli was never a part of my childhood. My mom can barely utter the word without an involuntary shudder. But it was my husband’s favorite vegetable. So, in an attempt to be a considerate wife, I dutifully cooked some early in our marriage. Eureka! That stuff’s delicious. And good for you. And cheap. And easy to prepare. What’s not to love?
Although I will be forever grateful to my ex for introducing me to broccoli, for the most part, his presence at the dining table did not broaden our culinary horizons. I married a picky eater and – whether by genetics or example – wound up with kids who followed in his footsteps. If left to their own devices, all four of them would probably subsist on pizza and spaghetti. Now that we’re living in separate houses, I have vowed to be more proactive about serving fun and interesting food to my children to help them expand their palates. There is so much more to life than hot dogs and tacos, my darlings!
I must admit that results have been mixed thus far. Last week, I fixed a delicious casserole with orzo, butternut squash, and feta chicken sausages. Truly, it was fantastic. Collectively, my children ate exactly three bites and glared at me in unified reproach over their plates. Sometimes, it’s just not worth the effort.
But I’m discovering that food can be a silver lining to shared custody. The other night, I made myself a spinach, walnut, candied bacon, and goat cheese salad for dinner. Just that. The salad was the entire meal. And because I was eating alone, nobody made gagging noises, or threw their walnuts across the room, or demanded something else to eat, or burst into tears when they saw what was for dinner. Nope, everybody who ate the salad (me) raved about it and complimented the chef (also me) enthusiastically.
I’m willing to cut my kids some slack on things like spinach goat cheese salad. I don’t know many kids who would eat that. But I’m definitely planning to introduce my children to red lentils very soon. Wish me luck!