Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Our love of variety
This research by Dan Ariely and a team in Rome is off topic (or at least I hope it is), but fascinating nonetheless: capuchin monkeys, it seems, choose variety for variety’s sake. And so do we: people eat 43% more M&Ms when there are ten colors in the bowl instead of seven. The authors of the study may push the limits of credulity when they suggest that variety-seeking “contributed to the rise of bartering and then abstract money in human society.” But I’m the first to confess that this year when it comes to my vegetable garden I’m one of the most variety-seeking monkeys around. Gone are the green beans that, a hundred quart freezer bags later, I knew I couldn’t eat for at least another twenty years. And after last year’s disastrous growing season I decided it was time rethink the rationale for the garden. Why grow only the ordinary? Of course tomatoes will still with any luck be the premier crop. But in addition to such staples as lettuce and peas I opted to buy some seeds that would stretch both my gardening skills and either reacquaint my palate with some old-time favorites that aren’t so commonplace or, in one case, try something I’ve never eaten in my life. Here are the new additions: celeriac, kohlrabi, radicchio, Kamo eggplant, cardoon, Parisian pickling cucumbers, Belgian endives, broccoli raab, cannellini beans, and chickpeas. I now know why Belgian endives are so expensive; I’ll either have gorgeous salads come wintertime and many hours of work later or a big fat nothing. I really hope the cardoon prospers because I haven’t a clue what it tastes like. This is a clear case of variety for variety’s sake. And I consider exploration into the unknown tremendous fun!