I hadn’t bought asparagus in months as I couldn’t bring myself to spend $4/pound, but we all know that with the spring comes the very tasty and also much lower-priced asparagus, so I had planned on waiting it out. Then came a pandemic, and all thoughts of non-utilitarian vegetables moved pretty far down the list. We love cooking with fruits and vegetables here, and as I stocked the frozen stuff I would never ordinarily buy, it was one more small sadness on top of all the others.
On my last trip out to buy produce, though, there they were: asparagus, the perfect size and shape for roasting and actually a good price, too. So, I grabbed two bunches, cooked the first one that night, and saved the other for a rainy day. Those little green and purple stems in my fridge were giving me hope.
When I saw them in the crisper yesterday, it was clear that I couldn’t wait another day. Little signs that they had begun to dry out meant that the time for cooking this particular bunch of asparagus had come. But I was as conflicted as a person can be about vegetation. If we ate them, there’d be no more asparagus for weeks – we’re at the point in the coronavirus curve that we’re avoiding all shopping – and the hope of these beauties in the crisper would be gone.
I was so careful to trim only the smallest bit from the bottoms so as not to waste anything, and as I emptied them onto the baking sheet with a bit of oil, kosher salt and red pepper flakes, I spread them out so they’d caramelize in that sweet way that vegetables do when they meet the heat. I gave them a benediction as I popped them into a 425-degree oven and kept watch so that they wouldn’t burn. When they came out, they were perfection and every bite was seasoned well and the right texture, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. We enjoyed them and then they were gone.
Thank you for coming to my asparagus TED talk.
This is a lot of words about a vegetable, I know. But there’s something about the appreciation of a thing, the fear surrounding the loss of it, its limited and precious nature, our much more careful treatment of an ordinary thing we’d normally take for granted, the singular enjoyment of it, and how we think of and use something we can’t replace that makes this bunch of asparagus a perfect metaphor for life and time.
What do you have today that’s waiting to be used? Will you wait, let it spoil, hoard it, use it or share it? In what particular way will you utilize this thing (or gift or day or talent or resource) in order to bring out the best in it? And when it’s gone, how will you feel? Perhaps today we can look at whatever has been stored up within us and see that maybe now is the time to take a look, bring it out, use it well, and share it with someone so that when it’s gone we can say we did the very best we could with what we had.
While we dream of more and better asparagus days to come.