The Thing With Asparagus


Well, I tried something new last night and I have to say I’m a convert. Vegetables are good for you but having not been a vegetable-lover as a child and, upon entering adulthood, only developing a taste for certain veggies, asparagus never made it on my list. That is, not until last night.

With most foods, I’ll try it and if I like it I’ll continue to eat it – at that meal and in the future. If I don’t like it, I may give it another go but, just being honest, probably not. I’ve never eaten asparagus before because of the pungent musty aroma it gives off. It’s a smell reminiscent of ampalaya (bitter gourd) and brussels sprouts and since taste is a function of smell* I was never attracted to it. Obviously, I’m not an ampalaya or brussels sprouts fan either although I have eaten brussels sprouts – once when I ordered it by mistake and a second time when someone tried a new recipe that included caramelized onions and bacon. With the bacon and onions, it was more palatable than plain brussels sprouts but the bitter taste still prevailed.

Going back to asparagus, there is, of course, that whole asparagus and urine connection – makes it dark yellow with that same musty scent. This isn’t really that much of a concern to me. After all, one urinates in the bathroom and it’s not like the smell of asparagus oozes out of your pores the way some other foods tend to (garlic, for instance); at least not in my experience from being with people who’ve just eaten asparagus.

So, what was different about last night’s asparagus. It was prepared in a way I’ve never seen before. It was lighter in colour, softer to the touch and, most importantly, there was no smell. One of the other guests at the dinner, an actor and a fellow foodie, – someone I’ll call a new friend and who was already a friend of the chef who prepared the meal (yes, he’s an actual chef; trained, owned a restaurant, French) – pointed out that the asparagus was peeled. It wasn’t peeled all the way, however. The chef peeled just up to the buds and steamed the asparagus in a shallow pan, covered, directly in a little water. Cooked this way, there is no offensive aroma, no thick skin to get through and no bitterness. At first, I took just two stalks from the pan. I tasted it solo, of course, and was pleasantly surprised and reminded how sublime simplicity is. During the meal, I did get more and enjoyed this new thing called asparagus with the meat and the mushroom risotto. All of this after a starter of smoked salmon over a bed of the most delicious potato salad I’ve ever eaten. (I’m practically salivating reliving the entire meal in my head and, as a foodie, you might be too so I’ll write about the entire meal soon. I promise.)

Back to the urine connection, and this might be a little TMI, but I notice that there is nothing unusual with mine since having this meal. Perhaps the stuff in the asparagus that does what it does to a person’s urine is in the skin.

Anyway, if you’re like me and are very cautious about your veggies, try this  version of asparagus. You’ll get all the vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre it offers without any of the usual detriments.

Happy cooking!


*I read that somewhere many years ago; that if you couldn’t smell, you couldn’t taste your food. I wonder how true this actually is because my father swears by durian, as do millions of others from Southeast Asia, yet it absolutely and unequivocally stinks. Sorry, Dad.