In praise of maligned foods

IMG_1045Here’s my policy on trying new foods:  If you can adequately demonstrate to me that any given food is eaten by any community of actual humans, anywhere in the world, on purpose, I’ll try it.  I’m specifying “on purpose” so that I can avoid eating foods that are clearly only considered “food” by necessity.  If something is only eaten because the people who eat it can’t afford to eat anything better or because they live in some sun- or ice-blasted hellhole and there is literally no other food anywhere, I reserve the right to refuse to try it.  But if you take those people and move them somewhere with a McDonald’s and a subscription to the Pie of the Month club and a generation later they’re still eating Grandma’s famous recipe for fried boar nuts, then I’m gonna try me some fried boar nuts if you put ’em in front of me.

There are really not a whole lot of foods that I’ve tried and won’t eat.  I don’t like raw onions under most circumstances (guacamole being a rare exception); cook them at all and I’m all good.  I’m not fond of peas if they’re mushy; peas that are cooked so that they sorta “pop” when you bite into them are fine.  Green beans, baked beans.  And I’ve reaffirmed this week that parsnips aren’t food.

(I’m doing the vegetarian thing again this week, in case you haven’t figured this out yet.  I accidentally ate a piece of sausage and pepperoni pizza yesterday, so I’m doing a bad job.  But dinners have been consistent.)

Let’s talk about Brussels sprouts.  Brussels sprouts, quite possibly the least popular vegetable known to American culture.

I’ve had Brussels sprouts once.  My wife made them.  She is also not fond of Brussels sprouts, so we were both experimenting.  They were boiled.  (EDIT:  My wife claims my mom made them.  This is odd; my mother never made Brussels sprouts when I was a kid.)

spit the damn thing out.  I don’t do that with food, guys.  I don’t care how bad I think something is, I’m gonna finish at least a bite of it before I punch you and refuse to have any more.  My mouth sent me an immediate and unambiguous “this is not food WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING” message and I spit it out as authoritatively as if some miscreant had placed a live bee into my mouth.  I’m not sure it was even in my mouth long enough to register the taste.  Nope.  Not food.  Gone.

Here’s the thing, though:  I can’t always trust myself.  I spent the first year of our marriage saying things like “I don’t usually like shrimp, but…” every month or so until my wife pointed out that maybe I actually did like shrimp.  So when she found a recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts and wanted to incorporate them into Vegetarian Week 2, I decided to roll with it.

They smelled good while they were roasting.  Good sign, I thought.

“They’re not bad,” she told me as I was sitting down at the table.  “Maybe a little bitter.”  She doesn’t like these things either, remember, so I inspected her face carefully for signs of deception.  She was quite entertained when I’d spit the previous attempt out, so this could have all been a ruse.

I speared one with a fork.  Did my best Joe Bastianich impression as I lifted it to my nose, stared at it disdainfully, and smelled it.

And tasted it.


Why the fuck is boiling Brussels sprouts even a thing Jesus they’re goddamn delicious roasted WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

I know the picture above doesn’t look like much.  Here’s the recipe:  Brussels sprouts, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, a little olive oil, cinnamon, sea salt.  Mix and roast.  Serve over brown rice.

By the end of the meal I was literally using my hands to pack more food onto my fork.  I could eat this forever.  Same vegetable I spit out when it was served to me boiled.  Delicious, delicious, delicious, go eat some right now.  There’s a teeny bit of bitterness if you eat one solo but they’ve got this awesome nutty flavor to them and combining them with fruit and a bit of cinnamon is bananas good.  Apparently there were supposed to be some (unroasted) cranberries scattered over the top as a last step; I can only imagine that making things better.

Seriously go eat some Brussels sprouts right now.  Just don’t boil them. Why the hell would you boil them?  You clearly already have heat and that’s the only thing you need to roast stuff.

Somebody bring me some lutefisk; I’m on a roll.