March 18, 2009

Brussels Sprouts Encounter

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!

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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]


  1. I read that whole thing and still don't know any more about picking a good brussels sprout.

  2. LLOL!!! What a beautifully written, witty piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  3. I spit my coffee out @ "...women's breasts -- pick ones that look nice on the outside and feel firm when you squeeze them." Thanks a lot O.o LOL This was the best Wendy! I'm so glad you dug it out of the past :D

  4. Maelstrom, after years of buying them I've decided they are a mutant vegetable that has some kind of supernatural properties that makes them perfect at no matter what stage ripeness. They never change. And I've experimented on them. No matter how long you leave them in the fridge they don't change. Ever.

    Funnyrunner and Kathy, thanks! :) And, Kathy, sorry about the coffee. Hee hee. Okay, not really sorry. MUAHAHAHA!

  5. Hahaha! Mini cabbages! I always though Brussel sprouts were funny looking, not to mention just plain gross. Ergh. :P

  6. I do love grocery stores. Finding old shopping lists, looking at what people are buying, asking for advice. In fact as a girl I fantastized I'd meet my future husband in the produce section (although he would not be the produce manager -- am not a fan of formal short sleeved shirts on men).

  7. Holly, you just haven't had them made right. I think. Maybe.

    Lawyer Mom, I think I've had that same fantasy. Although it wasn't my husband and it was 1AM in 24-hour grocery stor and it involved a rolling cart and a display case of cantaloupes. But that's a completely different story for a completely different kind of blog. LOL.

    Oh, wait... you mean like you MET him. In the non-euphemistically way of saying you met him. I get it. Sorry.


  8. Very nicely written! I wonder where that old woman is now. She's probably made it all the way round to the toiletries section and is clucking about the price of soap.

    '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.' - same here. Am very glad someone else asks random shoppers strange vegetable-related questions.

    Saw your comment on Holly's blog and thought I'd visit yours - glad I did! I may even return ^^

    The word verification is 'uptiondo' - sounds like something one might say to a small Spanish child mounting a horse. "Huptiondo!"

  9. thanks for stopping by the claw - can't wait to sit down and peruse your blog [-kids screaming, all for now!)

  10. I have to admit, I hate brussel sprouts! And I see your evil laugh is MUAHAHAHA! Mine is Bwahahaha!

    Anyway, your story is the reason I don't make eye contact with anyone in grocery stores! I'm that lady in the grocery stores that looks like she might snap at any moment- hence me calling people smelly pirate hookers in my head. Great story though!

  11. Ally, I am surprised how little people know about vegetable preparation. There was a new squash I wanted to try and I could not find ONE PERSON who knew how to prepare it.

    You know what I really like?? Sometimes veggies actually come with INTSTRUCTIONS on them! They have preparation instructions and sometimes even how you pick a good one. They need Internet at the grocery store so you can looks stuff up.

    Sherri, thanks for the visit!

    Janna, oh, YOU'RE that lady! Yeah, I think I've seen you and you scare me a little bit. :)

  12. I never knew such wisdom could be found from random women in the grocery store. I've got to start posing food related queries, rather than jumping in with, "What movie is this from: Nobody puts Baby in a corner?". Damn you, Mystery.

  13. LOL!!! I love chatty older people in grocery stores. I have worked grocery retail and I had a couple of regulars who would find you on the floor for a nice long chat. Would've been better with some tea and cookies, lol.

  14. Hi Envie. Hey, that could be a good marketing strategy... set up a coffee bar in the grocery store and have old ladies sit around and people could come in and just ask them for advice.

    Sharkie, you don't know what you've been missing. Try it out. In fact, I think you should go hang out there for a few hours and just ask random old ladies for advice in the produce section and see what happens.

    If anyone blogs about that experiment post a link back here! In fact, everyone should do it and we can compare experiences.

    This could end up being written up in some sociology or anthropology journal.


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