S’s phone beeped. The text message read, “Are you in town?” Just a few seconds after she replied in the affirmative, her phone rang. It was M. He’d just come back from a business trip to Germany and was brimming with enthusiasm. “I have something for you and your hubby. But you have to pick it up today or tomorrow.” Not wanting to spoil the surprise, he wouldn’t tell her much more than that. “Come pick it up as soon as possible.”
So, after picking me up from work just a few hours later, I found myself walking into the building where M’s office is located. Coincidentally, I ran into the mystery man himself, waiting for an elevator. With a huge smile (and I could have sworn a couple of chuckles), he very energetically shook my hand and ushered me into his office. “I have something really special for you. Better than truffles.” He strode straight to a large, gleaming refrigerator, opened it, reached inside and pulled out a small, long package, wrapped in paper and plastic. Grinning from ear to ear, he told me, “I got these fresh from a farm for you and S.”
White asparagus. No other vegetable connotes a beautiful European Spring than white asparagus. Delicate when steamed to perfection and delicious with just about anything–although many purists will argue that it’s best with nothing more than a spot of freshly made Hollandaise–this lovely vegetable is very hard to find fresh in my part of the world and when it is available, it’s ludicrously expensive. Being given a whole bundle was certainly a rare treat.
The asparagus M gave us were beautiful. They were big, firm, and full of flavor. S and I decided to cook them that same night. We quickly came up with 4 small courses. The first was the simplest and in some ways the best. It was a simple plate of steamed asparagus, served ice cold with some Japanese mayonnaise and some Hollandaise sauce. Our second course was steamed asparagus served under some grilled and oozing Tallegio. Our third course was steamed asparagus plated with some wonderful, slightly spicy, deboned oxtail stew that an Indonesian chef-friend of S’s had given us. The last course was a pasta with asparagus that was first steamed then sautéed in brown butter, served with truffle oil and freshly grated Parmesan.
It was a wonderful and delicious gift. I doubt I’ll ever be as thoughtful as M. I just can’t imagine hand carrying back such delicate treats for anyone other than myself. But you can bet I’m extremely thankful S and I have friends who will.
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