About a month ago I got an invitation to do a cooking demonstration for a group at the church where Ginger used to serve. They asked me to cook something and talk about how cooking feeds my soul. Today was the day.
I chose two recipes. One is an old family favorite, Taco Salad, which was what we had for lunch most every Saturday. The other was one I adapted from a recipe I found in Food & Wine and I called Brussels and Berries, which would have been something I would never have eaten growing up. Brussels sprouts are an acquired taste for me, as are several other vegetables and several dark beers. What is it within us that calls us to acquire tastes – to come to a new understanding through experience and effort — that doesn’t necessarily come easily or naturally? What changes?
When it comes to food, sometimes changing the way it’s prepared opens the door to a new experience. I remember hating zucchini as a kid because it only showed up in a casserole my mom made. I didn’t know of it any other way. My mom is a great cook, but even the memory of the way that casserole looked and smelled makes me want to run screaming from the room. She didn’t make it often, but when she did my brother and I had to stare it down at the table since we were expected to eat what was put in front of us. Once I met the squash in something other than that dish, I acquired a taste for it. I love to cut it in thick, long pieces and put it on the grill in the summertime. I even grow it in our small garden.
I grew Brussels sprouts last year as well. They look a lot different in the garden than they do in the store. The little cabbage heads grow on a thick, woody and leafy stalk and they take forever to do so. I planted in May and didn’t harvest until late September. What I learned about cooking them was to do more than treat them like little cabbages. Instead of just boiling them (there’s not too much that tastes good boiled), I learned to half them and drop them into a hot pan with a little oil and sear them. It makes them crisp on the outside and brings out a nutty taste; from there I can add different kinds of liquid to soften and flavor them (I’ve got a good recipe here).
Let me put it this way: Brussels sprouts are the Tom Waits of vegetables.