Any of you with first-generation, immigrant parents will appreciate that some things simply don’t translate.
Lost in Translation: Asparagus Legs!
My mother immigrated to the US from Denmark in 1967, swept off her feet by the charming American GI who would later become my father. And every spring, seemingly inexplicably, but without fail, my mother would throw open the doors, step out into the sunshine, and tsk in that very Danish way of hers. “Look at those asparagus legs!” she would exclaim, scrutinizing some unfortunate young woman. My brother and I were perplexed. We were mortified. We hoped that, with her thick “Swedish Chef” accent, nobody had understood her.
Danish Asparagus: The King of Vegetables
What I later learned is that, if you are Danish, asparagus reigns supreme, the king of all vegetables. Their asparagus season lasts only a few weeks in the spring. And – wait for it! – the asparagus is white or green. But it is the white asparagus, grown mostly underground on their northern coast, that they crave. And when the crop comes in, chefs at fine restaurants worldwide compete to buy up all of this white asparagus before the season ends. Or the Danes eat it all. So if you are Danish, asparagus season is a Very Big Deal. The kind of big deal that requires fine white linen napkins and the best family silver. (Seriously. If you are looking for a recipe for white asparagus, you might try White Asparagus with Egg, Parsley and Butter. Very, very Danish.)
Landing the Plane… in Delaware
So, when the arctic blast finally moved on, and the temperature rose to a lovely, Scandinavian-like 67 degrees here in Delaware, I moved my slacks to the back of my closet. I stepped outside in my dress and heels. And I looked down in horror. “Oh, no! Look at those asparagus legs!” That’s right, five months of Delawarean winter, starved of sunlight… and my legs are as white as Danish asparagus.
Time to start planning a vacation in Hawaii next Christmas.