Revenge of the vegetables, or: Death by tubers

by Yule Heibel on November 13, 2003

One of my friends, a mother of 3, became deathly ill with “morning sickness” (which lasted all day) during every pregnancy, while I never got sick. We were pregnant around the same times for our first 2 (my only 2), and I researched around a bit to figure out why she was feeling so extremely awful. The best thing I found was Margie Profet’s startling new idea about morning sickness, published (around 1994?) in the New York Times and elsewhere, and subsequently posted to the web: vegetables and other foods contain so many naturally-occuring toxic substances that a woman’s “morning sickness” is a way of stopping her from eating these things since they could hurt her baby.

I hadn’t given these ideas much thought until yesterday, when I was nearly prostrate from an attack of root vegetables.

I have to conclude that, aside from carrots, I hate most root vegetables, and they hate me. If vegetables have a high success rate for soaking up toxins, root vegetables probably have the highest since they’re stuck in dirt most of the time.

The whole crazy thing started because we felt it was important to prepare more vegetarian dishes to encourage healthier eating by our children. Hence, I dug out my old falling-apart edition of Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure, both volumes, trying to find recipes that sounded appetizing.

There actually isn’t much in those two books if you want to eat low on the glycemic index, or avoid masses of butter or cheese, as Thomas unfortunately goes high on the refined sugars, brown sugars, molasses, and dairy fats. I did find a “Winter Vegetable Stew” recipe that sounded moderately appetising (with “only” 9 tablespoons of butter), and ran to our local store to inquire about parsnips and turnips, two vegetables I never eat (and never will again), and about which I know nothing. I learned that parsnips are long, with a fat end and a skinny end, and that turnips are round. Both seem sort of whitish.

Carrots, which I do like (and which weren’t part of this recipe) can be eaten raw. This relates to my new theory of palatability of vegetables. If I like it raw, I’ll tolerate it cooked. If I can’t stand it raw, chances are it’s not going to agree with me cooked.

I would rather not eat raw turnips. Or potatoes. Or parsnips. Radishes give me heartburn. Celery root typically is an exception (along with carrots): I like it raw (shredded, with apple, in a mayonnaise dressing) and cooked (similar prep). But I think that pretty much adumbrates my repertoire of root veggies.

An hour after a hearty serving of this aforementioned carrot-free Winter Vegetable Stew, I thought my head would explode. After that my insides began to feel inflamed. Imagine a really bad hangover. That’s how I felt within hours of eating this meal.

I finally knew what it must be like to have an extreme case of “morning sickness” — at midnight, and at a far remove from pregnancy, too. This morning I looked like a survivor of poisoning.

Later this afternoon I am going to dump the leftovers onto the compost. And Anna Thomas, you can stick that parsnip where the sun don’t shine.


Donna Wentworth November 13, 2003 at 9:10 pm

Just dropping by to say hello! I didn’t realize you are an “art person” as I call them. My older sister and my husband are both painters (oil on canvas)!

Joel November 13, 2003 at 10:45 pm

Send any leftover parsnips and turnips over to me. I love ’em!

Yule Heibel November 14, 2003 at 3:02 pm

Too late, Joel, they are on their way to becoming “black gold.”

Donna, thanks for dropping by. What are your painter relatives’ (sister & husband) names? With all the outsourcing, I’m starting to think that a nice, relatively low-tech profession isn’t a bad place to be in at all… 😉

Sorry I took so long to respond to comments, but I’m only now fully recovered from my encounter with white root vegetables. Urhg. I love vegetables — nearly every single kind — but have learned that some really aren’t my thing at all. From now on, it’s back to broccoli & tomatoes & peas & spinach & asparagus & cauliflower & brussel sprouts & beans & all the pretty lettuces that grow above ground & …

Donna Wentworth November 14, 2003 at 4:53 pm
Joel November 14, 2003 at 6:38 pm

I never carred for many of the recipes in the Vegetarian Epicure, to tell the truth. There was always something about them that made them particularly bland to my tongue.

I eat raw turnips all the time. They are quite tasty and crisp when they are fresh. Parsnips are best baked, but if you don’t like potatoes, I can understand not liking parsnips.

Donna: Do poets and photographers qualify as “art persons”? 😉

k November 14, 2003 at 11:33 pm


Just a quick email to say, and how much I enjoy your blog site.. I think though, you should be writing a column regularly for a newspaper or journal, your commentary is wonderful.

Re the rooties, I guess it is the ancient Newfie blood that runs thick through my little veins, that make me love rooties.. yes… mashed turnip, yummykins.. mashed potatoes and a few parsnips, let’s not forget those pickled or boiled beets and celery and fennel (are those rooties, too?)

can we meet for coffee sometime and a delicious helping of those root vegetables that you crave, ha!


Joel November 15, 2003 at 2:43 am

Karen: If you’re a Newfie, how come your name isn’t Wavey?

Yule Heibel November 15, 2003 at 1:47 pm

Whoo-hoo, Karen! It’s great to hear from you — I had no idea you were reading my blog! Well, thanks for the encouragement, if you know of any paid writing gigs, send them my way: I could use an income. You’re on for coffee, but let’s not let the parsnips come between us, eh? How about Palermo on Blanchard, not too far from the library? I’ll email you…!

Joel, Karen’s name might not be Wavey, but she is very kinky. (Aside from all the settling down we’ve done since high school…, hehheh.)

Donna, very cool paintings — and so different from one another, too. I have to surf over to those websites a few more times to look at them.

Donna Wentworth November 15, 2003 at 3:29 pm

Yes–Rachael is very much in “the tradition,” Jarrod very much a contemporary painter (though, surprisingly, their paintings look beautiful together on my walls!). The spirit in the work sustains me in my dark times: both have such pure creative souls.

Joel November 15, 2003 at 5:57 pm

Yule, by the way, I issued an analytical challenge/subject for one of your articles on my web site.

Yule Heibel November 15, 2003 at 10:29 pm

Joel, I’ve been so flat lately — picture a turnip balloon with a puncture — I just saw the “challenge” on your blog, but I’m not going to get to it today. Maybe tomorrow?

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