Asparagus: Eat with Your Fingers
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My love affair with food goes back many years. As a young child there were only a few foods that I would not eat, one was parsnips and the other asparagus. Today, I still struggle with parsnips but asparagus, well that is another story.
My wife loves asparagus and for almost 25 years I would buy it and prepare it for her, usually steamed with a touch of butter, and eat one or maybe two stalks myself. That was all I could handle.
One day, I was out visiting a friend who had a small organic farm. He raised garlic for the marketplace and a few other crops for himself. Asparagus was one. At lunch he served a soup and when I asked him what kind it was he said asparagus. My stomach tightened but I had to be polite so I accepted the bowl with a hunk of warm homemade bread and, surprise, it was quite tasty. Now my friend loves garlic and just about anything he cooks includes garlic. I too love garlic and the soup was well seasoned with it so maybe that is what sparked the change.
About one week later I was back at the farm and walking the fields. We stopped for a bit as there was a black bear in the distance and we wanted to watch which way it was going before moving. The farm was located in a fairly remote section of northern Ontario. The bear ambled on about its business and we continue on ours.
He was harvesting some asparagus. After we had gathered all that was ready, he offered me a raw stalk. I looked at it and recoiled internally, then remembered the soup. Tentatively I reached out and accepted the offering. Watching him eat his stalk I did the same. To me relief and surprise it was very tasty.
Now asparagus is a food that is meant to be eaten by hand when steamed and I always wanted to enjoy it because there is something very primitive about not using a knife and fork to consume food. However until the trip to my friend’s farm, I was limited in my enjoyment.
It is quite possible that the organic and fresh asparagus, that my friend served me, was a very different taste experience from the asparagus that I was usually able to buy in the local supermarket. It is alos possible that this difference is what changed my eating habits. Now, I eat asparagus as eagerly as my wife, I prefer to steam it lightly and then add a touch of butter. I use my fingers to hold the stalk and dip it into the melted butter.
I do not know anyone locally who grows asparagus and must buy it, in season, when the stalks are young and thin. The thick stalks are too woody and while they can be cut and used in a vegetable soup stock, I prefer to eat the whole thing. I will on rare occasions slice the asparagus for a stir fry but my preferred way to eat them is one stalk at a time, using my hands, without a fork or knife in sight.
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