Roasting vegetables wasn't always popular

 Roasted Brussels sprouts

With all of the photos of slightly charred, deeply roasted vegetables on Instagram today, it is difficult to imagine that this method of preparing vegetables was seldom used just a generation ago. Slate.com takes a look at this phenomenon and tries to trace the ascendancy of roasted vegetables into today's ubiquitous occurrence.  

If you look at older cookbooks, you won't see many recipes for roasting vegetables. The main preparation method is boiling or steaming. Part of the reason, explains Slate, is the view of what purpose ovens should serve. Although the basic oven configuration hasn't changed much in hundreds of years, people stubbornly stuck to the idea that ovens were for breads, cakes, pies, and the occasional large roast, and not for anything else. 

Bee Wilson explains this concept in her book  Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, ovens had an "entirely different purpose from open fire: 'The prejudice against closed-off cooking ranges was largely that they seemed too much like bread ovens. … Ovens were things that baked. In European kitchens, the two kinds of heat were kept stubbornly apart.'" 

This all began to change in the 1980s, when restaurant chefs - who had long embraced the oven as a tool for preparing vegetables - started publishing cookbooks. The Slate article points to one book in particular, Cucina Simpatica, published in 1991, which contains extensive advice on roasting vegetables. They argue that cookbook helped spur the craze, and a 1993 New York Times article by Florence Fabricant pushed the technique into the spotlight. 

While it may be a stretch to trace the rise of roasted vegetables to one particular cookbook, there is no doubt that the trend is now rooted in our culinary traditions, and for good reason. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and deepens their flavor, while providing a pleasant textural contrast.

Photo of  Roasted Brussels sprouts with fish sauce vinaigrette [David Chang from Food52 Genius Recipes

1 Comment

  • lgroom  on  11/25/2016 at 3:45 PM

    My contribution to family gatherings has, in the last couple of years, become a broiler pan full of roasted vegetables. The Brussels Sprouts are the first to go. The first year I brought them, all kinds of gagging noises were heard. Now the sole gagger knows to keep quiet.

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