As is her wont, Gilda crafted a most delicious Thanksgiving meal: turkey, of course, accompanied by stuffing, mashed potatoes, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. She even baked a pumpkin pie.
But let’s get back to the side dishes served with the main course, specifically, the Brussels sprouts. The fact that I eat and enjoy Brussels sprouts is quite amazing given my antipathy (a mild word) towards them while growing up.
As my father was a basic meat and potatoes with a side of rye bread kind of guy, my mother didn’t serve too many green vegetables. Those she did try to slip onto our dinner plates were often overcooked. Her asparagus, for example, came out limper than a deflated balloon.
Not that I was a gourmand growing up (nor now). My poor eating habits drove my mother back to full time work, she used to say. I rejected green peas as an infant, using them as projectiles cast far away from my high chair.
Today, peas are among my favorite vegetables.
I overcame my distaste for asparagus quite by accident. During a TWA flight to Los Angeles in first class, thanks to a frequent flyer upgrade some 30 plus years ago, the flight attendant didn’t ask. She simply placed an appetizer dish of cold asparagus before me. Like Mikey in the Life cereal TV commercial of yore, I tried them and liked them.
On a trip to Dusseldorf, Germany, in 1990 I tried for the first time thick white asparagus, said to be a specialty of the region. They were right. They were extraordinary, a taste I have never had duplicated in America.
At one of my favorite New York City restaurants, Chez Josephine, I am partial to the sautéed liver. Liver was to be avoided at all costs as a child.
Gilda and I often eat sardines. My father enjoyed brisling sardines. I thought they were revolting.
No doubt, each of you today consume foods you ran away from as children. Not to leave you wondering if there were any foods I actually liked back then, let me assure you I have retained an appreciation for stuffed cabbage, sautéed sweetbreads, homemade gefilte fish and matzo ball soup. And chocolate pudding topped off with a hefty dollop or two or three of whipped cream. My mother used to make My*T-*Fine pudding on the stove. As an added treat she would let me savor what was left inside the pot by sweeping my index finger on the streaked remains. I’m okay with today’s off-the-shelf, ready-to-eat version. As long as I have plenty of whipped cream.