Not knowing any better, I loved canned asparagus in my youth, as canned vegetables dominated America in the mid-twentieth century. At that time in my life, I was also enamored with Campbell’s tomato soup, when made with milk instead of water. These foods spelled enchantment to my young, untutored palette. Time provided exposure to more excellent options; I no longer like canned asparagus or Campbell’s soup. Over the years, my taste buds have been disciplined to know the best; thus, I have acquired wisdom, which I humbly share with you.
With its 1795 beginnings, canning drastically reformed the world of nutrition, which started with a French confectioner’s inspiration. This radical change in the culinary world came at a time that government saw upheaval as well, for the French revolutionaries were revolting against monarchies in Europe (for the history of canning refer to Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, 2017/10/02).
Originally, this manufacturing process provided armies with needed preservation of foods, but later its prevailing use distracted the American public, taking them away from healthier, tastier, fresh ailments; this occurred likewise in other cultures. Canned goods monopolized the cooking of the common man; thus, the preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables were lost for a period. Even canned meats were favored: Spam was popular in the U.S., while bully beef-minced corned beef in small amounts of gelatin-dominated the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.
Campbell’s is the best known name in the global soup-making industry. In 1869, Philadelphia, fruit-wholesaler Joseph Campbell partnered with tinsmith-icebox-maker Abram Anderson to open Campbell Soup Company in Camden, N.J.; initially they packed fancy asparagus, small peas, tomatoes, minced meat, condiments, jellies, etc.
The year following its new 1896 partnership, the president of Joseph Campbell Preserve Company hired his 24-year old nephew John T. Dorrance, a brilliant research chemist. This master of organic chemistry had received a doctorate from the University of Gootingen, having turned down faculty positions at this illustrious school, as well as at Columbia, Cornell, and Bryn Mawr. Young Dorrance applied his ingenuity to his passionate vision for canned soups, for which he had learned the proper seasoning while working at famous Parisian restaurants. With his vision of a double-strength “condensed” product, this youthful genius gave America its famous Campbell’s tomato soup.
My vivid, introduction to cooked, fresh spinach is sealed in my brain; it took place at my friend Dulcy’s home in Cut Bank, Montana in 1974. This steamed dish, which her mother had adorned with hot butter and fresh-squeezed lemon, ignited a holy fire in me. Exuberantly I tried to convince my mom to repeat this, but she refused, professing her hatred for spinach. I now understand that her reaction came from an impression left by the nasty canned version, which so colored her sensory perception that she totally blocked out the heaven-sent fresh variety.
Both our palates and souls are thus influenced, absorbing either good or bad information, until we exercise our God-given authority over these perceptions. Throughout our lifetime, events leave subtle marks on us in either adverse or positive ways, hence imbuing our imaginations with emotion, and consequently dictating our choices often. We, however, can overcome our inhibitions by purposing to resist these impulses, repeatedly speaking words of life over our circumstances. In this way, we mold new pathways in our brains. This is true with all soulish imprints, both those brought by unpalatable foods as well as emotional wounds. May we stand boldly, mastering all such patterns that limit us.
Here fresh asparagus is the piece de resistance, with which I employ the leftover remains of browned casein residue from simple ghee preparation (see Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26). The flavor in butter is most highly concentrated in those milk proteins; therefore, when these are separated in the clarifying process, the very strength of its taste is isolated; browning intensifies this even further. If you have never experienced a food enhanced with these nutty milk solids, be prepared for copious, mouth-watering sensations.
James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 283, 345, 354.
Asparagus (with leftover milk solids from ghee) Yields: 2-3 servings. Total prep time: 15 min, when ghee is prepared ahead, which takes an additional 15 min.
1 lb fresh asparagus, or vegetable of your choice
1 1/2 tbsp of ghee (See simple instructions at Laban Bil Bayd, 2018/03/26.)
Browned milk solids (See these, leftover from ghee preparation, in saucepan in above photo.)
Salt, to taste (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Spray asparagus with a safe, effective, inexpensive vegetable spray (combine 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide); let sit for 3 minutes; rinse well.
- Dry spears with a towel. Cut in bite-size pieces, first removing tough ends (see photo).
Melt ghee in frying pan, saving separated milk solids for finishing touch (see photo below); test for readiness by placing a piece of asparagus in pan; when it sizzles, it is time to proceed.
- Add vegetable and sauté until desired doneness; do not overcook.
- Stir in browned milk solids; salt generously (see photo at top of recipe). Be enraptured by this heavenly treat!