The Pandemic Might Have Changed Our Relationship To Vegetables

If there's one food that best serves as an emblem of the year we were all sticking close to home, it would, of course, be sourdough bread. Everyone spent the better part of last year perfecting their starters and loaves in an attempt to distract themselves from the fact that perfecting starters and loaves was just about all they were able to do safely from the comfort of their own homes. But behind those trendy pandemic foods lies a bigger story about what we've been eating in quarantine, and vegetables have played an interesting role in our diets over the last 12 months.

According to a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by OnePoll in partnership with Red Robin, 7 out of 10 respondents said they enjoy vegetables more now than they did when they were kids. That's to be expected; as our palates age and develop, we tend to enjoy a wider range of foods, healthy stuff included. But 39% of those who said they enjoy vegetables more now than they used to are directly crediting their newfound love of veggies to their time in quarantine, deriving more pleasure from produce during this period than ever before. It makes sense, right? Maybe they tried to spice up a cooking rut by bringing home an unfamiliar vegetable to cook with. Maybe they took a deep dive into food blogs and realized they had never fully appreciated the magic of turnips. Whatever the case, an uptick in home cooking was perhaps bound to produce a greater affinity for greens.

In the survey, 22% of respondents said quarantine was the first time they'd tried spinach; 21% said the same thing about kale, 19% about broccoli, and 17% about cauliflower. It's unclear from the data whether "tried" means tasting it or cooking with it for the first time, though in either case, I find this surprising—surely spinach dip in a Hawaiian bread bowl was a party staple in households besides my own? (I admit this barely counts as spinach, but still.)

It will be interesting to see whether these patterns of veggie consumption continue once we're no longer quite so tethered to home cooking. Some respondents said that they hesitate to cook with vegetables because they can't find a way to make them taste good. If that's the case, well, we have some inspiration for you.