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Dec 31, 2010

I have been cooking and eating asparagus for many years, usually steamed and buttered or, rarely, with hollandaise sauce.  My love affair with asparagus has been ongoing, but like a lazy lover, it's been the missionary position (steamed and buttered) for most of our relationship.  Who would have imagined that my grown daughter would reignite my passion for asparagus simply by laying the lovely spears on a cookie sheet, sprinkling olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper on them, and broiling them.  Oh, the gorgeous aroma of those regal spears; how it weaved through the kitchen and into the dining room where I inhaled a new and fragrant asparagus perfume.  A first bite, cooked yet crunchy, yielded to my mouth and I was once again instantly, completely besotted by this relative to the Lily.  Next time my daughter cooked asparagus at my home, she added crumbled blue cheese to the asparagus and baked it for 10 minutes.  What can I say to describe the result?  It was like tasting first love for the second time, a rare and wonderful experience.

Yesterday I finished the leftover baked asparagus from Christmas dinner.  My husband doesn't eat asparagus; his passion is green beans and broccoli, and I'm okay with that.  He enjoys my love of asparagus because my passion for it often spills over into a passion we share, making me wonder if asparagus has aphrodisiac properties.  I decided to investigate.

Asparagus has more than looks and taste.  A 1-cup serving provides 66% of the daily recommended amount of folate, which reduces one's risk of heart disease and heart attacks.  It's been used throughout the ages to treat swelling  for arthritis and rheumatism and is a natural diuretic.  Asparagus is a good source of potassium and it's very low in sodium.  A cup of asparagus eaten frequently with meals during the early stages of pregnancy supplies enough folate, a B vitamin, to help the nervous system of the fetus to develop properly and can prevent birth defects such as spina bifida.  Even though folate is found in many green, leafy vegetables, folate deficiency is the biggest vitamin deficiency in the world.  I guess Americans aren't the only people who don't like to eat their vegetables.

Asparagus is also an excellent way to get a big helping of vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as being a source of vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B6, along with manganese, copper, phosphorous, potassium, protein and of course, fiber.  It even has been known to reduce menstrual cramps, and I'll vouch for it as an aphrodisiac.  Some reports suggest it has anti-aging properties, another reason to keep it on the menu.

 As a vegetarian since 1979, I've cooked asparagus and used it as pasta, added it to pasta with a little olive oil, and in general eaten more than my share.  But now that I have new ways to cook asparagus, it's like starting over with a new vegetable.  And now, my ode to this elegant edible.

Asparagus, your spear of green is like a dart shot to my heart, as raw you are a flirty veg, and baked you send me to the edge, I think that I shall never eat a better food, fait accompli.

Try 'em, you'll love 'em.

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Posted: Dec 31, 2010 11:48am
Feb 2, 2010
I've been vegetarian for about 30 years.  It never caused my family or friends anxiety.  I would eat around the meat or fish and never ask for any special treatment.  In the early years it was easy to shop.  I'd hit the farmers' market, stroll through the fruits and vegetables and make great casseroles, salads and fruit and veggie shakes.  Life was good.

When I moved to Chicago and the first Whole Foods grocery store opened, I was in organic nirvana.  I shopped for organic foods, this store spoke my language, bananas tasted more banana-y, blueberries tasted as I'd remembered them from childhood, apples were almost orgasmic in their sweetness and juiciness.  What a treat compared to the increasingly tasteless produce in the chain stores.  I trusted the Oregon Tilth and other established entities to certify that a food was organic.  I trusted the small farmer whose name and face appeared above the apples I purchased.  There were even great frozen organic products by a variety of labels.

After several years, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture realized there was money to be made in the organic field.  They created their own organic certification.  Shortly after, the variety of companies disappeared and Whole Foods started replacing other brands with their own 365 Day Organic brand.  Let's face it, it may have been a store with a mission, but when there's big money to be made, let's get involved.

Then one day I decided to purchase the store's brand of frozen organic spinach.  I usually buy fresh produce, but sometimes the frozen stuff comes in handy.  When that day came, I opened the bag of spinach and was about to pour it into a pan when the words "Product of China" stood out on the back of the bag like a skull and crossbones.  My first thought was why is the U.S. importing spinach; don't we grow enough here?  My second thought was about pollution in China--why would I eat something grown in soil by a country known for its lack of control with respect to use of pesticides, a country that for profit poisoned its own babies with tainted formula and denied any wrong doing.  Maybe there were traces of lead in the spinach.  Well, I complained to Whole Foods.  Their manager was as surprised as I was, and he had a nice smile, too.  Guess I'd just have to watch the labels very carefully.

A couple of days ago, I was in our local hispanic produce store.  They're beginning to carry some organic produce, and their non-organics look fresher and more alive than the food in the large chain stores which is warehoused for weeks or months prior to going on the shelves.  I picked up a bag of four bulbs of organic garlic and son of a gun, it's a product of China.  Then I noticed some organic Mandarin oranges.  Thankfully, they were grown in California so I bought them.

Gee, what's my moral to this story?  Not sure, but until we can repay China the big money we owe them, read your food labels carefully.
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Posted: Feb 2, 2010 8:02am


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Pat L.
, 2, 1 child
Chicago, IL, USA
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