[We’re thrilled to feature our first Guest Editorial, by the Editor-in-Chief of Food & Whine: The Gourmet Magazine for Picky Eaters. Reprinted with permission.]
By Phyllis Fuller
Oh, God, really? Yes, really.
Let’s start with the New York Times, under the surreal headline, “Shine a Spotlight on Peas”: “Asparagus and rhubarb steal much of the spotlight this time of year, leaving the modest pea waiting in the wings.”
I don’t know about you—well, wait. Actually, I do know about you: Your feelings about asparagus and rhubarb, and about the modest pea, are about the same as those of me, my staff, and everyone who reads Food & Whine, i.e., yuck.
But here we are. Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, and you know where all the ramp pesto is, i.e., heading for us like a guided missile. It’s time for that thing we do four times a year, which is to mark the change of season and prepare our excuses.
Now, normally, this would be a matter of routine. We’ve long known that, every three months, we have to strategize. We know that food can’t just be food. No, it has to be “seasonal.” Recently I saw an article entitled “28 Seasonal Recipes to Make This Spring,” and guess which was the very first one. That’s right: Pizza with Garlic Cream and Nettles.
For the past hundred years, readers of Food & Whine have known how to reply, when offered such a thing, “No, thanks. I’m not really a nettles person.” But we’re out of shape. We haven’t had to do it for a year.
Since last April we’ve been in the grip (or, IMHO, the loving embrace) of the pandemic lockdown. Which, of course, was a bad thing–for human health, and society, and America, and the economy, and the world, and so forth. But which had been—let’s face it–a boon to us picky eaters.
For a year, we luxuriated in the complete absence of dinner parties. The number of times we had to say, “Actually, no, I can’t eat anything with rosemary or ginger in it” had been reduced to a quite manageable zero. Not only were we able to stay home every night and consume nothing but (your default dish here; mine was chicken breast and rice), but we felt—we were–virtuous doing it.
Nobody’s feelings were hurt. We didn’t have to explain for the umpteenth time about our genetically-based aversion to cilantro. We were spared having to swan into a friend’s place, bottle in hand, and announce, “I’ve got a nice sauvignon blanc here and I’m ready for chicken,” only to be told, “Dave changed his mind, and made a beef roast with prunes. I hope that’s okay,” and to say with a mirthless, brittle laugh, “Prunes! Really!?”
Yes, lockdown was a vacation from all that. But guess what. The honeymoon is over. People are getting vaccinated, taking off their masks, and having friends for dinner. Any day now, someone you know will announce their intention to drag the modest pea out from the wings and shine a spotlight on it. Then what will you say? “The dog ate my vaccination”? That can’t work forever.
I fear we have forgotten the Old Ways–how to politely decline some root vegetable concoction, or the proper technique for running screaming from the room when presented the latest sweet potato or yam nightmare.
Meanwhile, here comes the rhubarb. No, I don’t know what it is, either—it can’t really be just red celery, right?—and I don’t want to know. As for asparagus, I’ve seen recipes that call it “grassy” and mean it as praise. Yeah, no, hard pass.
So rehearse your lines for when you’re presented with the gamey lamb. Resolve yourself to confronting the roasted carrots and artichokes, the fava bean salads, the spring minestrone with kale and radishes and more kale. If you remember your excuses and apologies from two years ago, all the better. If not, take a few minutes, or a week, to work up some new ones. Because trust me: you’ll need them.
But even when you think you’re ready, don’t get too comfortable. Corn is on the way. Summer is coming.