Kale, Quinoa, Edamame, Broccoli Rabe, and Cauliflower

In food, Humor on October 3, 2014 at 6:43 pm

The first time I met kale, it appeared as a decoration under my meal on a plate at a fancy restaurant. Nobody even suggested that it was edible. This was 30 years ago, though, back when people ate for enjoyment, not sophistication. Now kale is served everywhere and people purport to love its bitter taste, texture, and credit score. A few years ago, quinoa (the seeds of a grain crop) became all the rage. I think that was because only a few people knew how to pronounce its name correctly, which gave them the right to sneer at those who didn’t. Quinoa was probably popularized by the descendants of the people who decided how to pronounce the names of the cities and towns in Massachusetts. The founders dropped syllables and consonants and altered emphasis so that only natives would know how to say the names, therefore ensuring them ample sneering opportunities. Compounding Massachusetts-residents’ unwholesome pronunciation is the otherworldly accent employed by residents of Boston and its outlying areas. My family and I were once in Boston and we asked two men walking nearby where we could find a certain store. One of them said that he didn’t know, since he didn’t live in Boston-proper. I asked him where he lived and he said, “Not sure.” My husband, son, and I looked at him (gaped, actually). He and his friend stared back. “You’re not sure where you live?” I asked. He then took his index finger and rubbed it horizontally up and down over his lips as he reiterated, “Not sure,” only this time it came out as “North Shore.”

Anyway, as they say (with a different pronunciation in Massachusetts, no doubt), I digress. A number of years ago, I heard a morning talk-show host expounding on the wonders of edamame (immature soy beans in their pods). According to the pretty, perky host, there was no better, fat-free, delicious snack to be had. For a brief spell, edamame was the “it” vegetable, but its reign lasted for about as long as it took for people to learn how to say it. Now it appears in stir-fry recipes (along with its relative, tofu, which enjoyed its own glory days many years earlier), but you don’t see people wild-eyed and fevered over it. Kale will probably meet the same fate, sooner rather than later, I hope. Broccoli rabe and cauliflower are another story; these are two formerly ordinary vegetables that rapidly ascended the food ladder. Not long ago, broccoli rabe became the vegetable of the posh and wannabes, which perplexed my Italian relatives, who have been eating it forever. When I first tasted it, before it was well-known, I shuddered at its bitterness. Not long after, bitter was in style. Any dinner party worth its centerpiece featured the wretched vegetable. Over the last few years, broccoli rabe has lost its panache and has been relegated back to Italian dinner tables, where there is so much food that nobody (except perhaps your sister-in-law) questions why you didn’t help yourself to any. (If you are asked, tell your sister-in-law that it was the first thing that you served yourself and, because it was so delicious, you ate it first, and licked the plate.)

As for cauliflower, it, too, has been around forever. However, its blandness used to be disguised with mouth-watering cheese or cream sauces. Now, inexplicably, it’s appreciated for itself. Cauliflower is easily enough avoided on a platter of crudités, but when it shows up as a roasted side dish, there’s no sidestepping it. Unless there happens to be a dog with an undiscerning palate under the table, I’d advise resorting to childhood methods: cut it up into tiny pieces and spread them around your plate so that it looks like you’ve eaten most of it. You could also be an adult about it and actually eat it. That way, you’ll be able to discuss its impact on your taste buds using the inappropriate adjectives favored by wine aficionados.

So, what’s the next must-serve-or-talk-about-first item on the menu? There are only so many animals, and since most of them have been discovered, it’s doubtful that a new meat will surface. Therefore, gourmands and their imitators should be trend-spotting in the grain and vegetable categories. My money’s on an ancient grain with an exotic name, but parsnips are also high on my shortlist. What exactly is a parsnip, you ask? North Shore.

State of the Marriage Address

In Humor on September 11, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I walked into my kitchen and my husband was sitting at the table, drinking coffee, and complaining about me to former-president Bill Clinton. Bill was empathizing with my husband, and adding his own complaints about his wife.

“This has to be a dream,” I thought. “This can’t be happening.” But I wasn’t sure, because my dream life is often remarkably similar to my awake life.

Either way, something had to be done, so I put in a call to Hillary and told her what was going on. She was not pleased.

She and I are getting together next week to complain about our husbands. It did turn out to be a dream, after all, so scheduling our meeting is going to be a little tricky, but nothing a former-Secretary of State’s assistant can’t handle.

Occasionally, Working From Home Can Be Interesting

In Humor on June 27, 2014 at 12:04 am

My friends and family have (mostly) learned to leave me undisturbed when I’m working from home. It took a while, but if you were greeted with snarls and profanity whenever you spoke to me during working hours, you’d learn to leave me alone, too.

So, today, I was surprised when a friend called with an immediate request.

“Come outside right now,” she commanded.

“I’m still in my pajamas,” I said (it was 1:45 p.m.).

“That might be appropriate, considering what I want to give you,” she said,* before hanging up.

I snarled, uttered a few profane words, and then headed downstairs to the front door. She was parked at our curb, so I didn’t bother putting on shoes.

I leaned into her car window. “You could have put on pants,” she said.

“I thought you said my pajamas were fine? I wore a T-shirt to bed last night.”

Whatever,” she replied. She reached into a shopping bag and pulled out a medium-sized envelope.

 “I saw this at the grocery store and thought of you.” She handed it to me.


“Cock-flavored soup mix?” I shouted in surprise.

“Shhh,” she said. “Do you want people to hear you yelling that word when you’re not wearing pants?”

If my T-shirt had been a little longer, I would have leaned further into the car and given her a congratulatory hug. She’s now in the lead in our contest to embarrass each other with gifts of dirty-sounding food.

I’m in second (read: last) place. A while back, I left this in her mailbox:


Then again, maybe I’m the winner, because I can still get my mail without being afraid that I’ll run into the mailman. My friend still, after more than a year, has to check her mailbox after sunset (even later in the winter).

* In hindsight, I see that my friend is a lot more risqué than I had realized.

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