When asked why he ordered Brussels sprouts for lunch every day, Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie replied, “I cannot resist ordering them. The words are so lovely to say.”
“But he’s an old dead guy,” said my wife, Laurie, who loves Brussels sprouts. “People expect him to eat Brussels sprouts. You need a quote from, like, Gwen Stefani.”
Barrie and Bell may be the only two celebrities ever to publicly admit an affection for the little sprouts, and Barrie, you’ll notice, didn’t actually say he liked them. So this week’s question is: Why don’t Brussels sprouts get any respect?
I’m going on record: I also love my Brussels sprouts. (Although I’ll never be named one of PETA’s sexiest vegetarians.) Unfortunately, food writers get no awards for loving the sprouts. It’s almost expected.
“I wait all year for Brussels sprouts,” writes Molly Wizenberg, author of the blog Orangette and the forthcoming book Orangette: The Stories My Kitchen Tells Me. “Many pine away patiently for October’s first pumpkins or November’s puckery cranberries, but I hang my hopes on a fresh fall Brussels sprout.”
There are, I think, three things that drive people away from Brussels sprouts. I can solve all of them, and then you too can be a hot TV star or dead author.
At this point, I hope you’re saying, “Okay, I didn’t really like these things anyway, and now he tells me I have to hunt for them next January and wrestle them off a stalk? Screw this.”
Well, I lied. You don’t have to do those things. You can just look for sprouts in (I’ve always wanted to say this) your grocer’s freezer case. Like most frozen vegetables, frozen sprouts are cheaper and more convenient than fresh. Unlike most frozen vegetables, they almost always taste better. The courage to overcome my fresh-is-best prejudice came after I read a column by Mark Bittman in the New York Times a couple of years ago:
At a meal last fall at Citronelle, the great Washington restaurant, I was served a delicious plate of Brussels sprouts. When I asked the chef, Michel Richard, where they were from, he said without hesitation, “The freezer.”
I bought my first bag of frozen sprouts that day and my freezer hasn’t been without them since. I even made an unlikely convert: my daughter, Iris, who was then two, made a dinner of almost nothing but Brussels sprouts one night. (Don’t worry — now that she’s three, she doesn’t like them anymore. Balance is restored in the universe.)
Our house brand of sprouts is Safeway Select Petite. If you can find petite, buy them; they’re small enough that you can halve the larger ones and leave the smaller ones whole. But non-petite are also tasty and usually cheaper — although we’re talking maybe 75 cents cheaper.
I like to bust out the sprouts at least once a week. Gwen Stefani, if you’re reading, let me know what you think.
Matthew Amster-Burton sniffs out the unexplained in the kitchen, the store, and the food world at large. He blogs at Roots and Grubs, podcasts at Spilled Milk, and is the author of the book Hungry Monkey.
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The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
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