Waiting for Asparagus

(The following was written as part of a Facebook project based on Barbara Kingsolver’s book “ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE A Year of Food Life.” Additional entries can be found at ThinkBob.

Baby Carrots Fresh from the Earth

Each week a project member wrote a response based on one chapter of the book. Together we read and talk our way through a year in the life of Kingsolver and her family. This was my response prompted by Chapter Two, “Waiting for Asparagus.”)

Waiting for Alys: Confessions of a Procrastinator

Fascinated by the concept and in love with the writing style and author’s turn of phrase, I was delighted with my assignment of “Waiting for Asparagus.” My earliest years and meals were in Ontario, Canada with the requisite long cold winters and the culinary influences of a British father and Nova Scotia-raised Mom.

Asparagus?

Never heard of it. I was a young adult before it first crossed my plate, and I wasn’t the least bit impressed. Luckily for me I gave it a second chance.

I love the discovery in this book: both mine and the Kingsolver Clan. Learning the cultivation ritual of a vegetable I’ve come to enjoy seems a mini-miracle in the making. I’ve embarked on my own personal food journey this year, so this book is synchronistic with my own health-improving goals. Changing our long-held behaviors around food is among the more challenging because they are so deeply seated in our youth.

The line that Lily would “already be lobbying the loopholes” resonated to my core. I know what I should do, but the inner give-it-to-me-now frequently won sway. Hershey’s with almonds are a good source of protein, right?

My earliest food foundation was a solid one. Our father was a horticulturist. He worked on a tea plantation in Darjeeling India before the war, later moving to Canada where my parents owned a pair of flower shops. He lovingly cultivated an amazing garden in our own back yard, short growing season and all, and filled it with cherry tomatoes that moved from garden to dinner plate in short order. What a delight it was to be sent out back by our mom to gather food for our meal. I inherited my own green thumb and love of gardening from those early days.

So how, you may wonder, did I drop and roll so far from the tree? Our family moved to the US in 1966, and by 1969 my father was dead, victim to the cancerous crop known as tobacco. My mother went to work full time, with three young girls at home to fend for themselves. It was around the same time when “TV dinners” had come into fashion. Mom was impressed with the idea that her daughters could have a hot meal in her absence, but with limited cooking or use of the hot stove and her fear of one of us getting burned; convenience food at its finest. Strapped for funds she scraped together the cash for our Friday night treat: a can of coke from Safeway and a bag of chips or nuts shared among the four of us. Both rituals were loving ones: gathering fresh garden tomatoes from our vast garden and slurping high fructose corn syrup from a can in our ratty little two bedroom apartment.

“Waiting for Asparagus” is a bit of a metaphor in my own personal journey. I wonder what all gentle readers of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle are discovering along the way?

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