Dang, y’all are some picky motherfuckers! How I wish my mother were here to read your comments, so she could realize that LOTS of kids have food issues and I was not refusing the lentil soup just to spite her.
Or at least, only PARTIALLY to spite her. Okay, yes, maybe I was kind of a jerk for most of 1989-1997. But if you’re currently 34 years of age, you probably were too. Plus, I was an ANGEL from ’79-’86. Those are what we call “the good ol’ days”; specifically, May through August of 1981.
Anyway, let’s stay on the topic of childhood food weirdness for a while longer, because it’s interesting and brings you out of your shells.
My parents were big on having salad with every meal. The salad was to be consumed BEFORE the meal, because if you ate it after, the quicker-digesting lettuces would sit atop the mound of entree in your stomach and rot before you had a chance to properly digest them.* Please note that my mother was, at various times, a stay-at-home-mom, a piano teacher, a nanny and an electrologist, and that none of those words mean “nutritionist.”
Thus, my parents had to get their picky eater to choke down a nightly salad. Vegetables and I did not become friends until later in my life, so salad greens with discernible flavors were RIGHT OUT.
*Another tip: drinking hot black tea right after eating sweet and sour pork helps melt down the fats in the dish so they can just be expelled from the body, though the lack of Alli-style anal leakage seems to contraindicate this cherished tenet.**
**Question: Have you ever tried Alli? In your estimation, how much anal leakage is tolerable before you give up? Just wondering.***
***The correct answer should be none point none.
My mother capitulated by serving mainly iceberg lettuce, which we now know to be water in lettuce form, with the occasional dalliance with romaine hearts. Aside from my iceberg fetish I had three inviolable salad rules; all needed to be satisfied to ensure any salad consumption:
- No dressing. Maybe I thought that eating salad was a form of penitence and was not to be enjoyed by tossing it with something that would have enhanced the flavor. Kinda like wearing a culinary hair shirt.*
- Mandatory fruit. Like an apple or an orange, cut up into the salad, so that I could eat the fruit and veg together and mask the pungency of the iceberg. You think Jerry Seinfeld’s wife was the first person to trick kids into eating vegetables with sweet flavors? My mom was a goddamn pioneer. I demand royalties as the lone U.S. representative of her estate.
- Eating is with the hands ONLY. I can’t explain this one. You are welcome to offer your analysis.
*Although you gotta wonder how many of the self-flagellating monks were actually getting their rocks off from the pain. Which probably made them feel guilty, which required more penance, which created an infinite loop of jollies. No wonder most of them died young.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until after I’d made this springtime salad that I realized it was really just the grown-up version of my childhood mainstay of lighter, more delicate flavors paired with fruit, kinda.
I wanted to take advantage of the recent explosion of springtime with a big bowl of green. I decided to pair pea shoots – the tender little leaves and curlicue stems of pea plants, they taste just like, uh, peas – with asparagus and a bit of mint. To add some sweetness and acid, blood oranges, and some hazelnuts for crunch.
To up the fancy-schmanciness level, I slivered the asparagus with a vegetable peeler before giving them a super-quick blanch, then tossed everything together and dressed it lightly with a simple vinaigrette made of blood orange juice, champagne vinegar and olive oil. (I have grown up a little.)
And yes, I ate it with a fork.
Paired with some pan-seared fish, it was an easy, quick, delightful dinner. And yes, I know it’s not psychologically wise to give foods moral authority by designating them “good” or “bad,” but I did feel a little virtuous after I ate it.
You really can’t go wrong when you’re pairing up things that come into season together, and pea shoots and asparagus are no exception. They just taste like sweet greenness on a plate. The citrus and mint were punctuations, and the textures were dreamy – crisp shoots, crunchy nuts, explosions of citrus juice, tender asparagus.
Now you spill: weirdest childhood eating habit. Hit me with your best shot.
Pea Shoot, Asparagus and Blood Orange Salad
serves four as a side dish
3 blood oranges
1 bunch asparagus
1 1/2 tbsp. champagne vinegar
1/3 c. olive oil
4 large handfuls of pea shoots
1/2 c. chopped, toasted hazelnuts
Dispatch the oranges: Supreme the oranges. Take the leftover orange innards and squeeze them over a bowl, aiming to get 2-3 tablespoons of juice. Stash the supremes and the juice in the fridge.
Dispatch the asparagus: Snap off the tough ends by holding one end of a test stalk in each hand and bending it until it snaps, then trimming all the other stalks to the same length.
To cut them up, you can do what I did and cut each stalk into long slivers with a vegetable peeler, which is tedious and annoying, or you can do what I’ll do next time I make this and just cut the stalks into two-inch sections. Cut on the bias if you want to be pretty.
Put a pot of water on to boil and have a bowl filled with ice water at the ready. When the water comes to a boil, give it a good tablespoon of salt then dump in the asparagus. If you’ve made the ribbons, you’ll want them in the boiling water for under 10 seconds. If you’ve just cut the whole stalk into pieces, give it more like a minute. Plunge the cooked asparagus into the ice water, swish ’em around, then drain completely.
Make the dressing: Stir the reserved blood orange juice and vinegar together with a pinch of salt. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking.
Assemble: Toss the pea shoots with the asparagus, blood orange supremes and hazelnuts, then toss the whole salad with the dressing – go easy, you can always add more.