Here in Germany, we are in the thick of Spargelzeit. The blossoms are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the Spargel is spargelling. It dominates menus, features in displays – with artfully arranged cartons of Hollandaise sauce – in supermarkets and just basically rules the food roost with a slender white fist. Never has asparagus been so revered.
The Germans are mad for Spargel, presumably because it means Spring is here, although I have my suspicions they just get excited about drowning foodstuff in Hollandaise sauce. Let’s face it, Spargel isn’t the most amazing of vegetables. It is relatively bland and anything tastes good when boiled in salty, buttery water and then smothered in a thick, creamy butter-based sauce, or indeed further lashings of actual butter. Not to take anything away from Spargel, but most vegetables would fair quite well with such treatment. In fact, I daresay many vegetables would emerge as a darn sight tastier.
But that is all beside the point. The point is, Spargelzeit is here, the crops have yielded billions of white fingers begging to be lopped, chopped, boiled and smothered and because we are in Germany, that is what we will do.
On a balmy evening this week, SG and I prepared our first Spargel dinner of the season. It must be said, the ritual associated with its preparation and the overall implication that you are eating this because the Winter is over and Spring is really here, is quite lovely. It’s nice to appreciate food because it is in season; it feels natural and deserved, special, like mangoes and pineapple in the summer.
We kept it wrapped in cold, damp kitchen towels (as instructed by both the internet and a knowing friend) until we were ready to eat it and then SG painstakingly peeled each spear. Being a peeling/chopping perfectionist, I was able to walk to the shops for a bottle of wine and prosciutto in the time it took him to prepare our two batches. Then we chopped off the ends, brought the water, butter, sugar and salt to boil and in went the Spargel. Ten minutes later, voila.
Traditionally Spargel is served with potatoes or large chunks of ham, two things I am not hugely fond of. Thankfully the shops were out of the big chunks of ham (Spargelzeit!) and we went with prosciutto instead. A bowl of melted butter, a bowl of warm Hollandaise sauce and dinner was ready. A big, buttery, creamy, piggy German dinner, with Spring’s evening sun slowly fading outside.
It has to be said, towards the end of Spargel season, one tends to get quite aggressively over the whole shamozzle, as I did last year. It isn’t just because you might overdo it – I only had it about 3 times last season – but because seeing it heralded, everywhere, as the second coming of vegetables, can wear a little thin. It’s only asparagus people. In fact, I seem to vividly recall losing my shit in about June last year …