What does it mean to be a man?
I'm not talking about puberty or bar mitzvahs. I'm talking about when your mindset changes from the carefree thoughts of a boy to the responsibility-laden reflections of a man. It's hard to pinpoint when exactly that change takes place. For some people that day is when they first get a full-time job. For others, it's when they accept the financial burden of home ownership. For many, it's when they become a father.
For me, I think that day was a few years ago when I decided I would start eating brussels* sprouts again.
I've never been a very picky eater, but ever since I was a kid, brussel sprouts have been on my Yucky list. I happily avoided them for decades, but then one day in my early thirties, I decided it was time to try them again. It wasn't that I though they had suddenly become delicious behind my back, but it didn't seem very grown-up to continue childhood eating patterns.
I ate a few that day and found that although they weren't as bad as I recalled, they were still fairly unpleasant. Although they get props for having a unique taste, that taste is a little bitter and not very enjoyable. Regardless, I recognized that they were good for me, so I've added them to our regular shopping list and they've become a couple-times-a-month staple on our dinner table. It was the manly thing to do.
Then, last year, we went out to dinner at a highly touted restaurant called Firefly. I deliberately ordered the roasted brussels sprouts appetizer just to see if this well regarded kitchen could turn even unlikable brussels sprouts into something tasty. I was amazed to find that they had succeeded. They were clearly brussels sprouts magicians.
Last month Hank tried her hand at roasting brussels sprouts (instead of the usual steaming we do). I was delighted to find that she had suddenly become a brussels sprouts magician.
The truth soon dawned on me. Brussels sprouts are DELICIOUS if you roast them. Somehow, the roasting (lightly coated in olive oil, with a dash of salt and fresh ground pepper) takes away the evil bitterness and replaces it with an unexpected sweetness. I guess they get carmelized or some such kitchen nonsense.
They're now my favorite vegetable. I steal some off the rack when they come out of the oven, and I pop an extra few at the end of my dinner. It would be a minor stretch to say that they're like candy, but they're pretty damn good. I look forward to eating them. Yummy!
It's like I'm a boy all over again.
*Holy cow, I just learned that they're called brusselS sprouts and not brussel sprouts. Thanks, Google, but crikey, when did that happen?