I passed a sign at a local market advertising asparagus for $1.99 per pound. You’ve got to be kidding me! I got whiplash and near ’bout rear ended an SUV taking a second look to make sure I saw what I saw! $1.99 for chocolate ice cream I could understand. I’d pay that for an extra big slice of pecan pie, a jar of pickled peaches or a handful of fresh pig knuckles. But asparagus? Any self-respecting vegetable seller ought to pay you to take it off his hands!
Mother served it up on a regular basis in our “formative years” with the admonition, “It is good for you”. That’s the same thing she said about carrots and cauliflower. Leon thought it taste like wet Bermuda grass with the weeds left in it. We ate it so often that it must have come as a shopping bonus. In like, “You buy five dollars worth of groceries, you get a free bag of asparagus.” There had to be some logical explanation for how often it showed up on our plates.
If it touched your mashed potatoes, you were out of luck. By osmosis the asparagus permeated the potatoes faster than you could eat them. If the blessing was extra long, the meal was a total disaster! Mom usually made a casserole out of it. She also served it up boiled (the worst), roasted, raw, fried and diced into a sandwich spread. She rolled it up and wrapped bacon around it. None of these enterprising offerings helped the taste one iota. You can’t make a silk purse…….
I dated a girl once who was attractive, intelligent and wealthy. I figured I’d hit the trifecta. Her father owned a couple hundred acres of rich, bottom land. It was the proverbial match made in Heaven! When she invited me up to the big house for “supper with the family” I figured my future was set. I noticed the asparagus dish even before her father began to quiz me on my college options. My almost, pert’near, semi-betrothed took two helpings. And shoved it in with both hands! I ate my roast beef in stunned silence. When she turned to me with little green bits and pieces stuck to her teeth and politely requested, “Would you pass the asparagus, please”, I mentally went to refiguring my whole life even before Mrs. Carpenter served the orange sherbet. You talk about dodging a bullet!
I read once that the ancient Egyptians used asparagus as a medicine. The Romans called it an herb. Early American pioneers rubbed it on rashes and insect bites. I rest my case.
Now, I am aware of other asparagus lovers out there. The farmer’s daughter couldn’t be the only one. And I’m ok with that. American is well noted as the land of the free, and the home of the personal choice menu. Good sense would also argue there are people out there who don’t crave pig knuckles on a regular basis. To each his own….. But I’ve got to be in the majority on this one.
The color, make up and taste of asparagus reminds me of broccoli and Brussels sprouts. I rest my case again.
My wife, who once served us an asparagus casserole, contends that the dish has become fashionable, or a chic food, much like fried green tomatoes. She said it like that “legitimized” the consumption of the stuff. The only thing fried green tomatoes had over asparagus was they didn’t ruin the mashed potatoes when placed side by side on your plate. And if possible, they were even easier to obtain. Mom just sent me, Leon or David Mark out to the garden to “pull a couple” before breakfast.
I had the opportunity to eat at the infamous “Golden Lantern” in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a few years back. Our host raved about the fried green tomatoes appetizer. It was the widely advertised specialty of the house. My good southern upbringing kept me from verbalizing my doubts. We ate those things out of necessity down at the end of Stonewall Street. I would have much preferred a City Café hamburger, a malted shake from Frank’s Dairy Bar or a Chocolate Soldier and a Moon Pie from Pat Houston’s Grocery. How could anything we used to walk out in the backyard and pick before daylight become a specialty of the house?
I figured I was in for a treat. This “Golden Lantern” must’a discovered a secret recipe for fried green tomatoes. Maybe they melted Hershey Bars over them, covered them with caramel ice cream or soaked them in a Root Beer float. You can image my disappointment when the famous, chic, hot-to-trot, modern fried green tomatoes turned out to be……fried green tomatoes.
Let me tell you, I’ve eaten not fully ripe tomatoes BEFORE and AFTER they became fashionable. Being fashionable didn’t do one thing for the taste. And it is the same for the asparagus weed. You can dress it up by sprinkling cheese sauce and mushroom slices over the top, you can advertise it to the cows come home, you can feature it on the cover of Bon Appétit Magazine and have it personally sautéed by the Iron Chef. But you can’t change the taste……and that, dear hearts, is the major flaw in the dish. I rest my case forever.