Food Prompts Memories That Can Lead to Stories

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A dish of bright green asparagus is the spark for memories that could or will become a story. It is certainly a bit of memoir remembering putting me back in to several worlds.

I buy and cook asparagus often. Its easy, dresses up a meal and I love it.

I am so known to love asparagus, especially the slender, baby spears, that Jim’s mother used to stock the refrigerator with the bright green bundles and have it waiting for me on our visits to California. I have eaten it for breakfast, lunch and supper. Asparagus as a side with scrambled eggs – ambrosia.

Growing up Mama bought canned asparagus at the Big Star on Central Avenue when she wanted to dress up a special meal – you know, the fat, muddy green, soggy spears. She would put them on a platter with a huge dollop of creamy Duke’s mayonnaise – maybe some red tomato slices -as a side dish. Even then I liked them – mostly because they were supposed to be a special treat.

I don’t remember the exact time or place I discovered fresh cooked asparagus but after that moment there was no going back.

It might have been about the time I discovered that green beans did not have to be cooked with fat-back until they were black – although that is the way I like them best and will feast until I am full on the memories of my grandmother’s house on East Seventh Street.

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Do you like the picture? Here is the recipe. Thanks to



Asparagus Recipe

  • Cook time: 10 minutes


  • 1 bunch of medium sized asparagus, about 1 lb
  • 2 Tbsp of the most exquisite extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest – freshly grated lemon rind
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 Prepare the asparagus by rinsing them thoroughly, break off any tough, white bottoms and discard. Cut into 1 to 2 inch sections, slicing the asparagus at a slight diagonal.

2 Fill a medium sized saucepan half way with water, bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and reduce heat slightly to a simmer. Parboil the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes. Drain the hot water. While the asparagus are still hot, toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, Parmesan, and lemon rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or room temperature.

Note that when you are working with so few ingredients, it’s important to make sure they are of the highest quality.

Yield: Serves 4.


One thought on “Food Prompts Memories That Can Lead to Stories

  1. I remember a lot of dishes as part of family lore. My mother grew up never learning how to cook. As a Navy wife, she acquired a repertoire of soups that she learned to make from aunts and girlfriends. There was “Dolly Soup” which was a tomato base with root veggies that were finely chopped — I didn’t learn until later that these included turnips and onions. There was “BJ’s Soup” a beefy barley wonder of comfort in a bowl. “Sister’s Soup” was my favorite — a gumbo with chicken, tomatoes, corn, lima beans, and okra. “Sister” was my Aunt Alice, but we never called her that. She was always just “Sister.” My mother wanted to name me after her, but Sister didn’t like her given name, Alice. She approved of “Alicia” so that became my name. I always felt bonded to her, even though I only got to spend a little time with her. We were sisters across a generation and were connected beyond all geographic distance.

    My godmother Hazel de Lestrade was my California grandmother — another “Sister” with whom I was deeply attached. I never questioned her love for me. I loved it when I was sent to stay with her in her little house in Midway City with its towering avocado tree and bountiful fig tree. The house next door, which she also owned, had orange and lemon trees whose laden branches generously lounged over the top of the fence. I was perfectly happy to do anything with my beloved Hazy. She was a businesswoman with an office and a staff and I loved to go to work with her and just sit listening to the official conversations. I didn’t understand much, but I was fascinated by all of it, plus I got to play with the typewriters and adding machines. My favorite time with Hazy was spent in her tiny kitchen making simple and wonderful food. I would eat anything she gave me: soft-boiled eggs sprinkled with Lawry’s Season Salt and toasted salt-rising bread to dip in the runny yolk, sliced avocados with a drizzle of lemon fresh from tree; tuna salad with capers on melba toast washed down with Bubble-Up; braised celery and simple roasted chicken with lemon and fresh figs; it was all heavenly to my young palate. I can still remember how her kitchen smelled.

    I love asparagus — canned or fresh. Hazy always had a can or two of S&W asparagus in her fridge and a couple more in her pantry. She showed me how to love it cold atop a thick slice of beefsteak tomato with a dab of Best Foods on the side. To this day, canned asparagus added to a weekday lunch salad is a favorite. Now I also adore it sauteed in olive oil with a squeeze of lemon, a smidgen of sea salt and a grind of fresh pepper. My mother taught me to make it this way, and she learned it from Anita, our cook when we lived in Spain. No snapping off stems — just trim the ends then peel those tough skins down to the tender stalk, leaving the green part as it is. Slice the tops whole, then thinly slice the rest of the stalk. Pour some olive oil in a pan. Heat until it sizzles, then dump the asparagus in — and swish, swish, swish until the color gets brilliant and the edges get slightly browned. Squeeze some lemon, sprinkle with sea salt and grind on the pepper. Bon appetit!

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