I went back to 1995 to find this for Funnyrunner. This was something I wrote when I was living in the more epicuriously adventurous coast of California. Enjoy!
I was at the grocery store getting stuff to make chicken soup. I thought I would live dangerously and try adding brussels sprouts like I saw someone do once to see how it would turn out except I couldn't remember "brussels sprouts". I wandered down the produce aisle looking for "the little cabbages" when I finally spied them wedged between some unidentified fluffy green leafy vegetable and some musty looking garlic.
That was about the time I was delicately rammed by a short, aggressive-looking grandma who was either not in control of her shopping cart or just didn't care that she was careening wildly about through the produce section.
I moved out of her way and proceeded to poke through the brussels sprouts when I realized that I didn't really know how to pick out a good one. I was thinking that you would use the same rules that you use for lettuce, cabbages and women's breasts -- pick ones that look nice on the outside and feel firm when you squeeze them.
Just to be safe I thought I would ask, but the only person who looked remotely knowledgeable was The Woman with the Cart.
So I cleared my throat and said, "Excuse me. How do you pick out good brussels sprouts?" I will point out that all the things I have learned about vegetables I have learned not from my mother, but in the grocery store from women who looked like they could have done the cooking at The Last Supper.
She waddled over to me in a way that indicates she is limping on both legs, but won't complain about it. She was wearing glasses that perched at the end of her nose and were secured to her body by a chain that circled her neck. She came up very near and inspected me closely to size up just what kind of girl I am who doesn't know her brussels sprouts. I felt shame and made a mental note to ask my mother why she never explained this process to me.
I guess the woman decided I was okay. She asked me what I was going to do with the brussels sprouts. I told her I wanted to put them into some chicken soup. Her eyes narrowed and she peered at me suspiciously. I wondered if perhaps there was some unspoken code about brussels sprouts and chicken soup. Then she said, "Chicken VEGETABLE soup" and nodded wisely like that suddenly was a different story.
She then proceeded to tell me how she puts EVERYTHING into her chicken vegetable soup. She had a heavy New York accent and I had pictures of her standing over a steaming cauldron throwing in whole chickens, feet and all. She leaned close to me and whispered, "You know what is REALLY good in chicken vegetable soup?"
"What's that?" I prompted.
She paused dramatically and leaned over, slapping her hand onto a stack of bags whose vegetables were obscured by condensation. "PARSNIPS!" she said loudly.
And I said, "Uh, yeah. Those are kinda like carrots."
That remark caused her to launch into a lengthy monologue about carrots and parsnips and her mother's "green soup". By the way, I now know how to make a nice "green soup" and the recipe is probably close to 80 or 100 years old, so I am sure it would fetch a good price on the recipe open market. You can't just get information like this off the label of a soup can.
I finally disengaged myself from the woman and the last I saw of her she was standing with her eyes closed in the middle of the fresh fruit section with a mango pressed to her nose.
I was curious about that, but knew better than to ask.
[photo credit: specialkrb]