This is a guest post from fellow food writer Karen Eve Johnson, who lives in Amsterdam.
I have always adored asparagus. Even as a child I could eat any amount, picking up the delicious green spears, unadorned by anything but butter. I absorbed the correct mode of consumption — each delectable spear held at the base, grazing from top to the possibly too tough toe — along with the green vegetable itself. I still feel faintly shocked when I see someone attack the green stuff with a knife & fork! Old-fashioned, I know. Manners from a by-gone age, swept away along with outmoded worries about picking up the right item of cutlery.
After nearly twenty years of travelling that took my parents from post-war Germany via colonial East Africa to New Zealand, my family finally put down roots in a large ramshackle farmhouse in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by barns, old pigsties, and a huge overgrown garden. When we moved in – it was the summer of ’68 – the flower beds were rampant with nettles and bindweed except for one, which was filled with the long feathery fronds of summer asparagus plants gone to seed.
I had never seen an asparagus plant, let alone tasted asparagus, but it became one of our favourite spring vegetables. My younger sister and I were fascinated by the curious smell asparagus gave to our pee after eating it, but that didn’t put us off – it was just too delicious! My mother would cook the freshly-picked asparagus in the wire baskets of her pressure cooker (without the lid!) and we’d eat them with a simple mix of butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Perfection! Or so I thought – until, in my late teens, I ate asparagus served with Hollandaise sauce in France. To this day, it remains one of my favourite ways to serve asparagus.