Just Us Girls

It’s curious to me how some food splits along gender lines. In her wonderful book, Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin notes that men don’t seem to like bitter greens like Broccoli Rabe, but I think the list stretches further. Maybe it’s because women need more iron or folic acid or something, but there are certain foods that conjure up deep groans of enjoyment in my girlfriends while men politely pass the serving plate or even protest. When I took the brussel sprouts out of the oven on Thanksgiving the women gave nods of gratitude. I felt smug because The Husband had promised that if I made them he wouldn’t eat them. [They were terrific, by the way, roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil along with julienne slices of proscuitto.] I have never cooked liver or lima beans (foods I think of women enjoying more than men) in the 18 years I’ve been with The Husband, which is a loss for me. Still, The Husband takes such obvious enjoyment in the meals I prepare that, for the most part, I'm content to make dinners that we will all eat.

If I had said to The Husband “What do you think about trying some pureed parsnips tonight?” his face would have screwed up into something meaning “bleh.” But I was shopping for dinner at Trader Joe’s with my good friend Dorte on Saturday, so it was a different outcome altogether. Parsnips have intrigued me for years, ever since my analyst (who rarely says much to me) voiced shock and outrage when I made an uninformed disparaging remark about the vegetable. Then I recently came across a parsnip recipe, so parsnips were ready to happen in my life. But on this night, Dorte’s husband was out in Santa Barbara for work and The Husband was working in his studio. It was just us girls, and we were ready to do some cooking.

Parsnips look like albino carrots, but they give off a strong sweet scent as you get a blade to them. We peeled, chopped and boiled them to tender perfection in about 15 minutes. We threw in a couple of carrots for fun, and to hedge our bets against having them turn some vile shade of grey. Then we put them in the Cuisinart with some salt, pepper, a bit of butter, some parsley, and a little bit of the water from the boil. My thinking was that though potatoes don’t do well in the Cuisinart (they become gummy), the parsnips should be okay—and that was true.

I had some beets lying around (another vegetable that makes me swoon), so I dashed some salt and pepper on the beets, wrapped them each in a little foil, and put them on the grill for about 30 minutes. My only mistake there was that I didn’t turn them while they cooked, so one part got a little burnt. I didn’t say anything about that (lesson learned from Maurice), and just cut that part off while I was peeling the hot little devils.

We had them with some beautiful 2” lamb chops from Costco, that we rubbed with salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary before putting them on the grill, 8 minutes a side. You might think that such chops would overshadow the poor little parsnips. Not true! There were lamb chops left over, but I ended up scraping the bowl of parsnips with a chunk of bread.

The Girl didn’t take to the parsnips in a big way, even though we described them as being French, like her best friend. But that's okay, she's only six. She always has been a big beet fan though, and her second helping of those was enough to warm any mother’s heart.


SF Mom of One said...

I love this entry. Though I can't get behind brussel sprouts, the images of you and Dorta and Esme with the veggies are just lovely.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I crave bitter greens, liver, lamb, and all strong savory flavors. I think it's partly for the B vitamins and iron and other minerals, but there's more to it than that. Partly, I was raised on liver, but it's more than that too.