Posts Tagged With: asparagus

How Come Everybody Knows This Stuff But Me?

Maybe it's because I spent grades kindergarten through eight in a rural school that never had more than five pupils. (I was the only person in my high school physical education class who didn't know how to play softball.) Maybe it's because we didn't have television when I was a kid. Maybe it's because I spent most of my teenage years reading instead of dragging Main Street or sneaking out to illicit parties.

Whatever the reason, there is a surprising amount of stuff "everyone" knows that I don't. Not just who Snooki and Lady Gaga are, or whether the Kardashian sisters actually do anything or simply are famous for being famous. I'm talking about a more fundamental layer of shared cultural background that I seem to have missed.

Every now and then I am reminded of some odd bit of apparently common knowledge that isn't common for me. These are things everyone else seems to understand and take for granted, but I don't get. Either I've never had a chance to learn them, I've never needed the information, or—more likely—I never wanted to admit my ignorance by asking.

Now, for the first time ever, the depths of my ignorance are about to be revealed. You read it here first, folks. These are some of the things I don't know:

1. Jumping-rope rhymes. As far as I can remember, I have never chanted one in my life.

2. When a vehicle with a standard transmission won't start, and you push or pull it to get it moving and then start it by "popping the clutch," how exactly do you do that? Do you begin with the clutch in, then let it out at the crucial moment? Or do you push it in? Or push it in and then let it out? Confusion over this issue is probably the major reason I have always driven an automatic. At least I know exactly what to do if that ever fails to start: dig out my cell phone and call AAA.

3. How exactly do you play "Rock, Paper, Scissors?"

4. I've done enough hiking to be able to identify poison ivy. I'm rather too familiar with thistles and creeping Jenny, since the yard is full of them. But what precisely does a pot plant look like? Yes, I've seen pictures, but to the best of my knowledge I've never seen one in the flesh. (Of course, since I'm not sure what they look like, how would I know?) The stuff could be flourishing in the overgrown back half of our yard right this very minute, along with the thistles and that one tall asparagus plant. If anybody should ever discover marijuana growing wild back there, could I go to jail?

5. Did Gilligan and company ever get off that island? If so, how?

Instead of whining about it, of course, I could just look up some of this stuff online. Or maybe I should focus on all the other things I do know. Like what a "gerund" is, or a "stoat." Or what part of a car in England is called the "bonnet." Or what Harry Truman's middle initial stands for. I'd be perfectly willing to enlighten you on any of those important facts.

Right after you explain how to pop a clutch.

Categories: Remembering When, Words for Nerds | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Preserved Asparagus

Dill pickles are delicious. Asparagus is tasty. That does not automatically mean that it's a good idea to combine the two.

Years ago, my late husband brought home a gift from a friend—a jar of the friend's mother's homemade pickled asparagus.

Asparagus was far and away Wayne's favorite vegetable. When he was growing up in eastern South Dakota, his family had asparagus in abundance without ever needing to plant it, because it grew wild all over the place. The most plentiful spot for it on their farm was a shelter belt that they called their "asparagus trees." This brought them funny looks from people who were pretty sure that asparagus didn't grow on trees.

His mother would cook asparagus with butter, cook asparagus with cream, and freeze asparagus. One thing she didn't do, however, was make pickles out of it. We thought it would be fun to keep the jar until she was visiting, so we could all find out together what pickled asparagus tasted like.

We stuck the jar in a kitchen cupboard. There it stayed, because, of course, by the next time his mother came to visit, we had forgotten all about it.

Time went by, and life went on, bringing its larger and smaller gifts. It also brought tragedy. Wayne was killed when his small plane crashed into a tranquil piece of North Dakota prairie, a lot like the place he had grown up.

A few months later, I sold our house. One of the things I found when I was packing was the jar of pickled asparagus. I stuck it into a box with the other canned goods and hauled it to my new house, determined not to forget about it this time. I planned to give it as a gag gift to one of the friends who had helped me move, but unfortunately he didn't make it to the thank-you dinner. (Not, as far as I know, because he had heard about the pickled asparagus in advance.)

When I sold that house over a year later, the jar was still in the cupboard. I moved it again. This time, though, I wasn't going to stick it away and forget about it. One evening, with no guests, no special occasion, no reason whatsoever except curiosity, I finally opened the jar to taste the pickled asparagus.

One taste was more than enough. Asparagus has a strong flavor to begin with. When you compound that with a too-generous amount of garlic and an overkill of dill, you have, in my opinion, committed a culinary crime. By giving cupboard space to the jar all that time—not to mention moving it twice—I had no doubt been guilty of aiding and abetting. The pickled asparagus went straight to the compost pile, where the deer avoided it for weeks.

The moral to the story? When life hands you unexpected gifts, don't stash them away in a cupboard. Open them right away. It gives you a chance to enjoy them and maybe even get some more. Or, if they turn out to be pickled asparagus, it allows you to save yourself time and trouble by getting rid of them right away.

Categories: Food and Drink, Living Consciously | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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