Why Deborah Madison Wants Everyone to Stop Using the Word Veggies

updated May 24, 2019
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At a reading in Portland last year, cookbook author and vegetable guru Deborah Madison found herself blurting out something she’s often thought but never said out loud: “I hate the word veggies!” And her reasons gave me food for thought. They’re pretty simple, but a little romantic.

Why does Madison want to erase this word from the foodie lexicon? She says that the word is infantile. As she says:

Think about it: We don’t say “fruities,” or “meaties” “or “wheaties” — unless it’s the cereal. We don’t say “eggies” or “beefies.” We don’t have a Thanksgiving birdy; we have the bird. But we don’t seem to be able to say vegetable.

She goes on with a paean to the tough, strong, resilient life of vegetables (like I said, romantic!). Vegetables are strong and long-lasting; some grow right through the winter and other tiny sprouts can move concrete, given enough time. “Vegetables have serious means of protecting themselves,” she says, and she points out that “Their seeds can sometimes last for hundreds of years or more.” Vegetables can be moved all over the world, from the farm to our plates. They can be eaten, in many cases, from top to bottom. They’re well-defended yet sustaining, offering life and nourishment to bees, insects, and other wildlife, as well as humans.

In short, vegetables are “eccentric and powerful personalities,” and our lives are all improved by respecting them and eating a lot more of them. It’s this respect that Madison is wanting more of, even in our language.

We’re as guilty as anyone here at The Kitchn for calling vegetables “veggies,” and I don’t know that we’ll ever completely stop; it’s nice to have one more word for them, and sometimes it is just going to slip out! But Madison’s mini manifesto resonated with me, romantic as it is.

What about you? Do you love the word “veggies”? Or does it fall somewhere in the “foodie” pile of despised yet commonly-heard food words?

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