As a child, I had a lot of sneaky ways to avoid eating my dinner. I had the Cut Small Pieces and Move them Around on the Plate Ruse, the Hide it under a Lettuce Leaf Scheme, and the Hold a Mouthful in Your Cheek until You Can Spit it in the Toilet Plan. I thought myself very sneaky and successful, but my parents later informed me they were aware of my trickery.
I particularly hated a few specific foods, chief among them spinach and Brussels sprouts. I’m sure most of us shared these hatreds as kids, right? I mean, let’s face it. Spinach and Brussels sprouts are disgusting. Somehow, in my TV watching, I had gotten the concept of Popeye and his sudden spinach-based strength confused with the concept of the Incredible Hulk and his, well, hulking, green, spinach-looking bulk. Spinach would, I was convinced, turn me into a slimy, green, overly muscled monster.
Except that now I love spinach. I will put spinach in almost anything and claim it’s better that way. Smoothies, salads, veggie burgers, tofu bowls, quinoa salads, pita sandwiches — almost nothing is immune from my trusty bag o’ spinach. But Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, I have refused to eat for over twenty years.
Unlike spinach, I had no confused narrative about what would happen if I ate Brussels sprouts. I didn’t need one. All I knew was that horrible, slimy texture and that godawfully bitter taste — a taste that brought tears to my eyes as my parents begged me to at least TRY ONE MORE and I obliged, choking and gagging it down. UGGGGGHHH. Frakking Brussels sprouts, right? Disgusting.
So why on earth did I suddenly decide I need to try them again, over two decades later? I am an adult now. I don’t have to eat Brussels sprouts. I can have a bowl of cereal and a bottle of Champagne for dinner if I so choose (not that I have done that before or anything). No one cares if I eat Brussels sprouts or not — except that maybe you, reader, might care, at least if you have read along this far already.
I suppose I thought I needed to make the most of the world of plant-based foods. Since so many novel, interesting, or exotic-seeming foods are now off the table for me (pun totally intended), I have to get my experimental food kicks in different ways. I won’t ever be trying sweetbreads or osso bucco or sea urchin, so I might as well sample Vegemite and Brussels Sprouts. So I did.
First I threw a bag of the things into my shopping cart. I tried not to think too hard about what I was doing or I would chicken out. In they went, on I went. Then, I solicited recipes and cooking suggestions from my twitter friends, and man oh man did my peeps come through! I got ideas for roasting, steaming, and pan frying in various fats and with various seasonings and on and on. My friend Dangermoose was especially enthusiastic about the small sprouts, finally admitting he was a professional endorser, paid by the Brussels Sprouts Council! But seriously, if my friends all had Brussels sprouts recipes, this had to be a good sign, right? If they were choosing to cook this vegetable of their own volition, how bad could it be?
I got a few sprouts out and started washing them and ridding them of the dead outer leaves. They seemed so cute, so green, so small. So innocent.
I decided to go with a basic olive-oil drizzle, salt-and-pepper sprinkle for the flavoring:
And then I popped them into a 400 degree oven, checking every few minutes. After about 18 minutes or so, they looked like this:
Not too bad, right? Sort of nicely browned, probably flavorful, probably tasty.
My biggest fear biting into them was that the horrid, bitter taste I remembered from childhood would be there and that I would want to spit the sprout back out. But it wasn’t! As I carefully chewed, I was on edge, seeking out cautiously the flavor behind the thing. It wasn’t really bitter at all. In fact, it kind of tasted similar to cabbage. As I kept on eating, the taste of the little sprouts grew on me. They were flavorful but not bitter, tender but not slimy, and maybe a smidge too salty (my fault – sometimes I get over-zealous when sprinkling on the kosher salt because the texture of it is so fun between my fingers). Next time I’ll cut back on the salt, but — oh yes — there will be a next time. I am going to see if my friend Dangermoose can get me a job at the Brussels Sprouts Council because I am ALL OVER these things!