Have you noticed how crazy we Americans are about multi-tasking? It’s all the rage: the more things you can do at one time, the more god-like you are. Read a book while listening to your Ipod while doing laps on the track at the gym? Piece of cake. But not for me.
I am a terrible, terrible multi-tasker. I can barely watch over two things happening at one time, which I suppose makes me a dual-tasker at best. At work, I am expected to multi-task, especially since molecular biology has a lot of “set it up and wait”-type protocols. I do my best to be efficient, but believe me, I deserve no gold stars for multi-tasking. I wonder, though, if multi-tasking is really over-rated. I mean, how many times have you had a conversation with someone who is clearly thinking about something else? How many mistakes have been made by people whose attention was divided just a little too much? How many car accidents have been caused by drivers talking on cell phones? Is multi-tasking efficient or is it deadly?
I’m not the only one to question the value of multi-tasking, nor am I the first person to struggle with it. Eknath Easwaran wrote a whole book about not multi-tasking and paying attention to the task at hand. Although I never met Dr. Easwaran, I think I would have liked him. He was probably the kind of guy who paid such close, loving attention to people that you couldn’t help but feel all warm and fuzzy around him. I love feeling warm and fuzzy. My friend Owl, who, like me, has spent years working in a reseach lab, is making peace with her inability to multi-task. Her solution? She slows down, takes her time, and looks at the benefits of being meticulous and clear-headed in her work. She’s very wise. And she makes me feel better about my own turtle-like pace in life.
So maybe it’s a lot of hot air about how great multi-tasking is. I remain adamantly convinced that my single-mindedness has its own virtues, especially at the dinner table. In a world swamped with fake foods, diet fads, and too many forgotten-by-tomorrow trends, a little single-mindedness can go a long way. Each and every day, my goal remains the same: eat more vegetables.
Of all the food goals one might have, why vegetables? I think the answer is best summed up in single words. Tasty. Antioxidants. Texture. Health. Crunch. Fiber. I believe of all the changes we might make to our diets, eating more vegetables is one of the best. As for the single-mindedness? Pardon me while I brag a moment, but I believe most of my eating habits now are pretty solidly good for me (and tasty, too)—it’s the vegetables I have to keep working on. It’s not because I don’t like them. Instead, I think it’s because dinner usually arrives after I’ve worked a long day. On an empty stomach, my resolve has been known to weaken. But I figure as long as I keep vegetables front and center, I’m good to go. Even if said vegetables find themselves cozying up with a plate of macaroni and cheese. From a box. Hey, it happens even to the best of us.
From the February/March 2006 issue of Eating Well
Makes ~1 ¼ cups
If vegetables are a priority, then so are ways to spiff them up. It’s nice to have a delicious array of salad dressings in your cooking repertoire; this vinaigrette cozies right into that spot between sweet and tangy. Its sweet maple flavor is front and center, with mustard and apple cider vinegar providing soft notes of savory sourness. And through some magic of ingredient synergy, it tastes downright buttery to me when spooned over steamed kale. This dressing is stellar. Try it with salad or steamed vegetables or whatever floats your boat.
½ c. canola oil
¼ c. real maple syrup
¼ c. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon or coarse-grained mustard
2 tbsp. soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Into a large jar for which you have a lid (I use a clean 16-oz. jar, such as an old salsa jar), add all the ingredients except for the salt and pepper. Cap the jar tightly with its lid and shake like mad to blend the ingredients. Uncap and taste; decide if you want to add some salt and pepper. If you do, add your seasonings, cap and shake again, and repeat until it's perfectly seasoned to your taste. Serve over some very lucky vegetables.