Joan Dye Gussow still cooks asparagus the way her mother taught her 40-plus years ago – “sliced on a steep diagonal and sautéed in olive oil” – as she described to a conference of eager listeners in a hotel ballroom in Santa Barbara in January. Gussow had a lot to say to the Edible Institute, and I even wrote a lot of it down, but it was this single comment about asparagus that really stuck with me.
That fact alone should make all public speakers paralyzed with fear of their simultaneous power and utter lack of control.
My take-away, as the magazine editors like to say, was that cooking the same thing over and over is human and natural and good. That it can be profound. It is not necessary to seek out new food experiences to be extremely, deeply, devotedly interested in food. I will feel no shame about the fact that I cook this sautéed asparagus – putting a bit of oil in the pan, tossing in minced garlic and ginger to sizzle, adding asparagus and chopped green onion, sprinkling on some salt, stirring the whole thing up, covering the pan until the asparagus is a bit tender – over and over and over again every spring (frequently tossing it onto a bowl of rice with a bit of pork alongside) and expect my family to be not just grateful but exuberantly so.