It has long been my contention that farmers and chefs are in cahoots to get us to eat things that are not typically considered food.
Brussels sprouts spring to mind first.
I had the misfortune to confront a platter of these abominations the other day at a fancier restaurant (meaning one with cloth napkins and no photos on the menu), when the lovely, yet formidable Marcia ordered them as an appetizer.
When they arrived at our table, there was nothing appetizing about them. They looked and smelled like blackened alien cocoon pods. So, I said, “They look like blackened alien cocoon pods.”
I’ve always been pretty literal.
Marcia was not amused.
“Stop. They’re caramelized brussels sprouts with bacon,” she said. “Try it. You’ll like it.”
Right. My mom used to say that when I was a kid. She lied every time. It didn’t take me long to understand that what she meant was, “Try it, or no dessert and an early bedtime for you, young man.”
I’m not a child anymore, of course. So, I manned up and tried one anyway. It was a mistake. It tasted like a blackened alien cocoon pod, only bacon-y. So, I said to Marcia, “It tasted like a blackened alien cocoon pod. Only bacon-y.”
To which she frowned and rolled her eyes – I swear, someday, they’re gonna stick that way.
My point here is that almost no one throughout all of human history has liked Brussels sprouts, not even the people of Brussels. That’s why they ship them here.
So, why are they suddenly on every restaurant menu?
I think it’s because chefs are ambitious. They figure, “Anyone can make a filet mignon taste good. But it takes a true genius to make something edible out of Brussels sprouts. If I can do that, I will become world-renowned and get my own show on the Cooking Channel.”
So, that’s what happened. An entrepreneurial chef tried a hundred different ways to cook Brussels sprouts, but nothing was working because, after all, a sprout is still a sprout.
Finally, he or she cooked it with bacon, which usually fixes anything. Then, they got their own TV show. After seeing the show, restaurants added them to their menus. Then, patrons ordered them thinking, “I’ve always hated these things – but hey, that chef is on the Cooking Channel, so she must know what she’s doing.”
There’s no doubt people hated them, anyway. But, people don’t like to admit they don’t like something (unless they have a magazine column), for fear that others will find them unsophisticated. So, they kept their mouths shut.
And, voila! A food trend was born.
Farmers love it when something becomes trendy, especially something like Brussels sprouts, because finally, they can get rid of their existing supply of it, which has been piling up in the barn. (Alien pods never go bad.)
Eventually, demand becomes so great that they have to grow more Brussels sprouts, which amazes them because they know what Brussels sprouts taste like and they can’t believe they’re making money off of alien cocoon pods.
Of course, no trend lasts, which is why a new one has to replace it. Which is why, I figure, kale – vile, bitter kale – is now a thing.
I may never go out to eat again.