I did eat out in Australia on my recent trip but it was the allure of the kitchen, the produce markets and delicatessans that really got my juices flowing. After almost eight years in Vietnam's markets and eateries, where fresh noodles, Asian greens, tangy herbs and tropical fruit have become familiar fodder, I now see my own country's foodstores in a different light. The normality of my Hanoi market now contrasts spectacularly with the exotica of Melbourne's food shops.
A weird transition has occurred.
My eyes popped at the simple sight of bundled asparagus spears piled high in wooden crates at the greengrocer's. In season and going for AUD$0.49 a bundle, it was incumbent upon me to purchase a truckload of the stuff and take to it in the kitchen. I would match it with other ingredients and eat this fine green vegetable until my return flight to Vietnam was called.
It's funny how I can now sing the praises of asparagus because as a kid I hated the stuff, served out of a tin, not really green and wrapped up in bread at adult parties or in a messy tuna mornay for a weeknight dinner. Yuck!
There seem to be much better uses for fresh asparagus these days. At my sister's, we briefly panfried it in olive oil, pepper and lemon juice before placing it atop a risotto with oven-roasted salmon, lemon zest and basil.
At another family gathering, the asparagus got the same treatment in the fry-pan but became the feature of the dish, loaded up with feta and parsley and a simple dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar.
And on each occasion after these meals of asparagus and copious glasses of wine, I would visit the loo and my pee would pong. I don't know about you but that's what it does almost instantaneously to me!
Asparagus is delicious but what is that about?