Brussels sprouts. Oh, noble sprout, who did defame you so? Yes, the black stain on otherwise idyllic childhood dining memories, but fortunately not mine. “Oh dear God, no!” I heard my friend Bernadette exclaim as I placed a bowl mounded high with crunchy, bright green Brussels sprouts with Balsamic syrup and toasted hazelnuts.
“You went to boarding school, right Bern?” I countered, filling everyone’s glass at the small dinner party I was hosting. Bernadette shuddered slightly as her husband, Claudio, promptly tucked the smallest sprout onto the edge of her plate, coaxing her with a wink. “Come on, you gotta try! You’ll like these? Jen prepared them so nicely!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Bern and she gobbled mouthfuls of the fresh linguini with Bolognese sauce, weaving her fork gingerly around the sprout, until all her pasta was consumed and the deadly object of fear sat alone, barefaced. Guiding it with reluctance into her mouth, I watched her eyebrows arch high as she gave me an affirmative nod.
“Not so bad, eh Bern?” I joked, nudging her with my elbow. I began to recount the story of my English friend, also a boarding school alumna, who I rescued from Brussels sprout deprivation in a similar way. After having a boiled, mush of a sprout jammed down her throat by the nun on lunch patrol at her school, she swore to me that such a repugnant vegetable would never cross her lips again.
Inspired by the challenge, the next evening I prepared her a tender Brussels sprout gratin flavored with nutmeg, cream, and Parmesan – a true classic of country French cookery. Once again, I proved my husband right when he said, “I don’t believe that people truly hate certain foods. It’s just that they’ve never had them prepared well!”