White Asparagus

Asparagus are now in season….. everywhere in Europe, 30 cm creamy stalks with chewy little bulbs for ends are boiled, slathered with hollandaise sauce or generous lashings of butter and consumed with gusto. More so this season, seeing that it has been an extremely harsh and long winter, which also means, unfortunately, a shorter spell with the asparagus. By late June, only five weeks away, the season would end, I’m told, and it’ll be next spring, twelve long months away, before the love affair with these elegant legs can resume. In the meantime, queues patiently form, stallholders do a brisk business and cooks plan their menus around these leggy beauties.

Everyone wants a piece of the action, so to speak…. Including myself. Within six days, I’ve indulged in the love affair twice… not counting the once in Singapore, a week before being in the thick of the action, in Europe itself.

Now – this love affair with the asparagus set me thinking….. it’s not as risqué as you might surmise…. quite the contrary. 

It’s about seasons.  Even as I was sinking my teeth into one of these ballerinas with the long legs, at a Sunday lunch in the thick of the German country side, it struck me that asparagus seasons are like seasons in our lives. Seasons always show up; some last longer, others for a shorter time. Some are good, we wish they would hang around longer. Sometimes, we know it’s fleeting, so we enjoy it with greater intensity. But we are to grab them, indulge in them, savor them with a thick warm sauce….. or something rich and golden  like hot melted butter. Or as a soup – I’ve always enjoyed soups – and if it’s meant to be hot, then I’d rather it be really hot, even with the risk of burning my tongue. The worst are the lukewarm ones that are meant to be hot – either hot or cold, but lukewarm is like…… blakkkkk……(for best effect, you got to say this with your tongue sticking out)

Then there are the varieties – the creamy soft ones found many degrees north of the equator, and the green ones of the southern hemisphere. Both are different and thus prepared somewhat differently. One is allowed to poke its head above the ground and inevitably turns green from the photosynthesis, the other remains buried under mounds of dirt. One comes out robust, crunchy and brightly green, albeit with a thicker, more fibrous skin; the other softer, more elegant and refined. Now this makes me think, yet again- isn’t this like life? Sometimes, after we brush the dirt off us, and pick ourselves up again, we inevitably gain a different perspective.  The results are a  quieter demeanor; with a strength and dignity that comes from fighting not only to survive, but to thrive. You know – the phoenix rising from the ashes bit. Thousands of asparagus are testimony to this- personally my preference is for the lighter variety. I find a subtle flavor that is characteristic of asparagus only from this latter type.

So…. My take on this – enjoy the seasons that life drops into our laps – sometimes unfairly we feel. But they are here, so we might as well make the most of them, no matter how s***** they may seem. Perhaps it’s about love gone wrong, a career bust up, a betrayal, a death, a life changing illness… the list goes on. Or… for something less dramatic,  just sheer boredom amidst all the busy-ness of life. But these are seasons – some alter the course of our lives; unless of course we believe that although life may sometimes seem unfair, we still have the choice of how we respond. 

Easy for me to say…. Seated more than comfortably in the dining room of Susie and Andreas’ 400 year old farmhouse in Lower Saxony, Germany, and  starting on my fifth stalk of asparagus,  accompanied by a thick generous weiner schnitzel and a most companionable glass of dry white, the ‘devils’ of life seem so very far away. So till the next season, here’s to those long legs! And all the seasons in our lives. May they bless us richly.


17th May 2006