Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The other day I was overjoyed to see that the wonderful Fibonacci broccoli is back in the shops.
Italy's food production is determinedly cyclical. In the wrong season, you cannot, for love or money, get anything that isn't coming out of the ground or off the tree right now. It makes grocery shopping a little more fun. You have to learn what things are available when and what things to look forward to, and when to stop buying something because, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Italians are usually right. Food that is getting to the end of its season is really not as nice. And every time you get used to something (I've been eating the huge yellow peaches at a rate of about a pound a day) you have to learn to let it go when it's at its end. But it's OK, because it just means that the next nice thing is coming along.
The Fibonacci broccoli, properly called Romanesco, is much, much nicer than the "regular" kind we're used to in Britain and N. America. Apart from its delightful shape, and interesting mathematical/cosmological implications, it's taste is much milder and somewhat sweeter. It comes in heads like a cauliflower, only smaller, and you can cook and eat every bit, stems and leaves too, which are also very good. I usually steam it lightly, drizzle in a little olive oil or fresh butter and grate some peccorino over it.
But when I was very small, I was not such a broccoli enthusiast.
I don't know whether this memory is one of those real ones, or one of the kind your brain makes up later and convinces you is real, but one way or another I do remember it.
My dad used to take me for weekends when I was small, and on one of these occasions, I recall that we were to have dinner at his house and then go to the park to play on the slides and swings, at that time, my all-time favourite thing to do.
I asked him what was for dinner and he said, something, something... "and broccoli".
I said that I didn't like broccoli.
My father, being a guy and therefore having a rather more practical turn of mind than a woman would have, promptly responded, "OK, will you eat it if I give you five dollars?"
I agreed to this sensible transaction, believing that I was definitely coming out the winner. ("Five bucks!! Woot!"... I'm five, remember).
Well, it turned out that broccoli was actually wonderful, and I've had a lifelong love of the stuff ever since. But Fibonacci broccoli is an entirely different matter, a stage of evolution better. If you see it in some N. American yuppie specialty food store, get some immediately. You won't be sorry.