Cautionary Tales

Asparagus Risotto

Much as I grumble about winter, I do enjoy living in a seasonal country.  The anticipation of the delights that each season bring is what makes them so sweet (and maybe melancholy).  Asparagus is right up there on the top of the list for spring.

One of the regrets in my life is that I have never grown asparagus. Imagine the joy of walking out to the back 40 (feet in our case) and picking your own asparagus. Alas, asparagus takes 3 years to mature fully to harvest (which explains how pricey it is), and until recently I’ve never had a full sun spot to plant it. Three years is committment!

Photo by Eneida Nieves on

Asparagus Risotto The ‘grands’ next favorite dish is Asparagus Risotto, another labor of love. But isn’t that what cooking is about? ( I like Jamie’s site because you don’t have to scroll through dozens of images and ads to get to the recipe. ) Rice pudding had been a go-to comfort food all my life so it wasn’t a stretch to try a basic risotto and then move on to some of the more exotic variations.The challenge here is that risotto will never have its celebrated creamy yet slightly al dente texture when reheated, so it simply has to be done while you are surrounded by guests. Fortunately it doesn’t require too much thought – just constant stirring for 20 minutes. I think it’s worth it.

You need to start with a good quality chicken broth. Homemade, on hand, in the freezer is the best – but purchased will suffice. A cup of white wine or even champagne definitely improves the flavor but can be omitted if you drank the whole bottle. Tsk tsk. The Parmesan also makes a difference – if it’s a ‘pull out all the stops’ event, go for broke and buy the best. I’ve been able to impress the ‘grands’ using the round shaker brand. But I only use butter.

I’m always looking for shortcuts that won’t compromise quality so I cook the sliced asparagus (briefly) in the chicken broth while it simmers – a much simpler method. When I don’t feel like stirring for 20 minutes at all, or don’t have arborio rice on hand I substitute penne – cooking the asparagus in the same water as the pasta and then tossing them both with olive oil, slivered garlic and lots of parmesan.

If you want to learn more about making great risotto here’s a link that covers the basics plus lots of ideas for variations. https://w I make a killer rice pudding using arborio rice, but this article suggests adding chocolate – a whole new level of decadance akin perhaps to ‘gilding the lily’.

I first learned about risotto when I watched Big Night (1996), an understated foodie movie about Italian brothers who own a restaurant and long to serve authentic Italian food. The care they lavished on making the risotto intrigued and inspired me. Some other favorite food movies I’ve enjoyed are Mostly Martha, Babette’s Feast, The Hundred Foot Journey, The Lunchbox, Julie and Julia, and Ratatouille. Both books and movies have expanded my repertoire.

Right now I’m following a mystery series by Martin Walker about a French detective, Bruno, who is passionate (of course, being French), about cooking and gardening as well as justice. Walker and his wife, food writer Julia Watson, worked to produce a cookbook based on meals from the book.

“Only butter’ could be my cooking mantra – and no doubt accounts for the slightly raised triglyceride levels my doctor nags about. Perhaps describing a rice pudding as killer is cutting a bit close to the bone. According to Julia Child the secret to French cooking is to simply add 4 times as much butter as the human artery can physically withstand. A

This delightful old poem ‘Little Thomas’ by F. Gwynne Evans, springs to mind – very entertaining for young and old – a great Thanksgiving read. My granddaughters had great fun memorizing it last week. It’s always handy to have a little verse up your sleeve to entertain the troops. .

I learned the poem about Jim and the lion by Hilair Belloc when I was in grade four – it may have been the first seed planted that grew into my love for poetry.

Both these poems were written in the Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard era of history in which properly trained children were instructed with cautionary, morality tales through story and poetry – which going into week three of the lockdown, some beleagured parents may wish to revive.

Bless you my friends.

One thought on “Cautionary Tales

  1. I always loved listening to you quote the sad tale of the disobedient , Jim. I had to print it…thanks, Lo! The asparagus risotto sounds delicious too. Looking forward to May…I know some hungry people who would love this, dear sister!


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