If my mother and grandmother were alive, they would be surprised by my behavior (at least one aspect, but probably much more!). Each would recall my childhood aversion to asparagus, which they grew in our backyard vegetable garden, and not believe my enjoyment of the once-hated sprouts.
I recall turning up my nose and fleeing the kitchen, whenever they cooked and ate the green stems. My mother enjoyed something called asparagus on toast. Eh!
At some point, I developed a taste for the German delicacy known as Spargel. This is the same plant, but the shoots are white. As the plant grows, dirts is heap over each shoot to prevent light from causing photosynthesis (a word in learned in grade school science class). From there, the jump to the green variety was less difficult than convincing a childhood palette to enjoy something distasteful.
I came to appreciate the green variety, after having served in a tapas bar. They were grilled over charcoal, doused with oil olive, and sprinkled with sea salt. If you have not tried this, then I can recommend it. The flavor is far superior to asparagus on toast...
Your German word of the day: Spargel. It is white asparagus.
This variety of asparagus would also be green, if humans let it alone. The moment it spouts above ground, sneaky farmers mound dirt on top. This prevents the sun reaching the plant and shuts down the photosynthesis process (what makes plants green, for those of you that did not go to school or were submitted to a reduced curriculum in America). It is a specialty, only available in the Spring. It is pricey, because cultivation is done by hand (mostly by cheap, seasonal labor from Eastern Europe). Dirt must be added each day for weeks and hand harvesting is back-breaking. T
he best Spargel grows in the Rhine graben (I explained photosynthesis; try Wikipedia for this one), but commercial growers try to stretch the season by planting clones in southern European latitudes. Connoisseurs notice the difference and hold out for the genuine article.
As I child, I recall my mother having a few asparagus plants in the garden and drooling over her asparagus-on-toast. I would have gone on hunger strike, if forced to even taste such garbage. (Fortunately, she was not interested in sharing). I preferred Franco-American spaghetti* in a can! Since then, I have developed more discerning tasted and rather enjoy Spargel.
There are many ways to eat this delicious vegatable. It is served hot or cold, with a small veal cutlet, ham, a filet of beef, with vinaigrette, or with hollandaise sauce. I prefer it cold, especially with my famous hollandaise sauce. This is regional, seasonal eating at its best.
*I have no idea what "Franco" had to do with Italian food, but did not notice cultural details at that age. I was more like dogs mentioned earlier: eat, make messes, and sleep.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.