Eat Your… Introductions

About “Eat Your…”

Hi, I’m Ben, and “Eat Your…” is a column focused on meatless culinary treasures. As I hope you will come to see over the next six months, the entries herein are not strictly for vegetarians and this is most certainly not a political soapbox. Both meat eaters and those who abstain should learn something new, experience unfamiliar foods, and rediscover old favorites.

In my personal life, I’m currently working on a graduate degree in Crop Science at North Carolina State University. Past lives have known me as a Macintosh support technician, a dishwasher and prep cook at an Asian restaurant, and just about everything in between.

The point is, when it comes to food, I’m not a professional.

Me, Eating Cereal 1981

Sometime around 18 years ago, I learned to cook… by necessity. Like most American families, the more we grew up, the busier we were. The nightly ritual of a home-cooked family dinner at the table dissolved into fast food in front of the TV which eventually disintegrated into no family dinner at all. Presented with the choice between heating up frozen cheeseburgers, or picking up a few pots and pans and figuring things out, I chose the latter and have been experimenting ever since.

I was born and raised in Georgia and lack a Southern accent. Yet, put me in front of a group of people and I’ll say “y’all” because “you people” just ain’t right. I love to eat squash casserole, collard greens, and pecan pie. I think sweet tea is the only way to drink it. And I get confused when people say “soda” and “pop” — because isn’t everything just a Coke?

With that in mind, I plan to make this column part “down home Southern” and part culinary adventure. I hope you enjoy the ride!

Eat Your… Plan

Since it’s almost the mid summer here in the U.S. Southeast, we have literally tons of vegetables arriving daily at the Raleigh State Farmers Market down the road. The first four installments of “Eat Your…” will feature okra, squash, sweet potatoes, and beans & peas. Inside each entry you will find some history of the plants including origin, common and uncommon uses, tips for cooking, and finally one or two of my favorite recipes.

Here is the basic timeline:

July – Southern Summer Vegetables

  • Eat Your… Okra
  • Eat Your… Squash
  • Eat Your… Sweet Potatoes
  • Eat Your..Green Beans

August – Grains From Around The World

  • Eat Your… Rice
  • Eat Your… Quinoa
  • Eat Your… Couscous
  • Eat Your… Teff

September – Fake Meats: What the ?

  • Eat Your… Tofu
  • Eat Your… Tempeh
  • Eat Your… Seitan
  • Eat Your… Veggie Burgers

October – Southern Fall Vegetables

  • Eat Your… Cabbage
  • Eat Your… Broccoli
  • Eat Your… Collard Greens
  • Eat Your… Kale

November – Traditional and Vegan Holiday Favorites

  • Eat Your… Gravy
  • Eat Your… Cranberries
  • Eat Your… Veggie Pot Pies
  • Eat Your… Veggie Loaves

December: Desserts

  • Eat Your… Pumpkin Sweets
  • Eat Your… Vegan Chocolate Sweets
  • Eat Your… Coconut Sweets

Be Prepared

Generally, I like to keep things simple. Most of the recipes that I will feature here require only the most basic ingredients; I don’t like to go buy specialist items any more than you do. However, one of my goals is to expose you to new foods.

Some of the topics like the series on grains and fake meats may require some hunting or advance preparation for ingredients, especially if you are located in a rural area. To make this easier, I will be listing ingredients one week prior so that you can prepare. Because really, what’s worse than reading a great recipe, wanting to make it that night, and not having the ingredients that you need?

For Next Week

Next week’s recipes will require:

2+ lbs of fresh okra. Needless to say, it’s best to buy it fresh from a local farmer. If you can’t find it locally, because you’re in, say, Portland, Oregon you can usually find okra at Asian markets. Make sure to pick the smallest, youngest pods — 2-3 inches are best. Yes, you’ll have more to cut up, but trust me, the longer pieces can be tough and woody. I have no advice, positive or negative, about frozen okra since I’ve never used it.

1-2 medium potatoes of your choice
1 medium yellow onion
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
2 cups corn meal
1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk*
4 cups vegetable oil (peanut is best)

*[For non-dairy buttermilk, add 2 tsp white vinegar to 1 cup plain soymilk]

See you next week!

. . . . .

Now Playing: The B-52′s by The B-52′s and Original Soundtracks 1 by U2 and Brian Eno.

Ben is a graduate student at NCSU studying Crop Science with an emphasis on Sustainable Agriculture. Official foodie credentials are non-existent, other than the fact that he has been cooking for himself since he was 12 years old. You can find his personal blog at, photos and videos at bengarland’s Flickr photostream, and his plans for a self-constructed cob house and organic farm over at Our Farm Adventure (still a very new work in progress).