Tuesday, March 9, 2010
In my family, I'm the only one remaining who is always willing to try unusual and different foods. As I recall, my brother Kenny and I were the only adventuresome ones who would try any new foods. My mother always planted something unusual in her garden each year; how well I remember kohl rabi, rutabagas, salsify, and spaghetti squash. My brother Norman is considered "The Master Gardener" in the family who carries on Mother's manteau and he said yesterday, "I never thought about it before but that's probably why I always plant something different every year because Mom did." As kids we used to eat paw paws and persimmons from Grandpa's farm, but that was because it was Grandpa's; otherwise, the boys probably wouldn't have touched them!
My mother cooked all kinds of wild game including pheasant, rabbit, turtle, ground hog and muskrat (Mother used the euphemism "marsh rabbit"). At Thanksgiving, I still make our family favorite: squash pie made from the lovely Kushaw squash! I admit that I have inflicted arugula, pummelos, Meyer lemons, cherimoyas, shayote squash, tomatillos, ugli fruit, star fruit, carambola, and clementines on my family. [P.T. Barnum was right!] Before he met me, my husband's idea of vegetables was green beans and corn. He had never tasted broccoli and cauliflower before he met me. He doesn't like asparagus, peas or hominy, but I can serve nearly anything else and he will at least try it.
Swai has become a favorite of mine. When I saw swai at Kroger, I asked the meat manger about it, but he didn't have any information. I fixed it and as I was eating it, I exclaimed, "This tastes like catfish!" As I love catfish, this was a wonderful find. I jumped to check on the internet and I learned that swai IS catfish from Southeast Asia! "A rose by any other name...."?
Yesterday at the grocery, I saw edamame in the frozen food section. Never having seen it previously, I thought "How bad could a vegetable be?" I brought it home and I fixed half of the bag right away for lunch. Something looked vaguely familiar to me but I thought the edamame must be in the pea family. I fixed it with butter, salt and pepper as instructed. As I tasted them, I said, "These are SOYBEANS!" I decided to look it up on the internet--I didn't know how to pronounce it and it wasn't in any of my several dictionaries--but I learned that edamame is unripened SOYBEANS! My mother used to shell them and fix them when we were kids and that's why they looked familiar! [I was just now reflecting on the lowly soybean: bean sprouts, tofu, soy milk and all of those Morningstar Farm products come from soybeans.]
I remember when my sister-in-law came from Korea in 1968 and after she'd been with us awhile, one day I opened the door to the up ground cellar to be hit in the face with an overwhelming smell--she was growing bean sprouts in the cellar--and through the years she influenced us with other items such as bok choy, gai lan, mung beans and sweet potato vines! I can recall how excited she was when she learned that she could pick mustard greens in the field beside our house. She gathered several trash bags full and put them in the freezer. My mother always picked dandelions, watercress, shepherd sprouts, lambs quarter, mustard, and a little bit of dock for our "mess of greens".
Would I have bought the edamame if I'd realized it was JUST the common soybean? Of course not! Would I have spent $4.99 on a box of clementines if I'd known they were JUST mandarin oranges? Of course not! Would I have bought swai if I'd known it was JUST catfish? Of course, it was $1.00 cheaper on the pound, folks!
On Wednesday this week, I'll have company join us for dinner. I want to fix a different kind of salad, so I bought "green butter lettuce and red butter lettuce" instead of romaine, spinach, escarole, endive, iceberg, Bibb or ARUGULA! (Oh, I can't be having arugula or people might think I've joined some "elite" group, because I recall a certain politician who was ridiculed for discussing arugula!) Well, I've eaten arugula and it tasted awful! I'm going to shell the edamame, cook and then chill them and add them to the salad. I don't know how to say "bon appetit" in Asian!