The Perfect Date: Spargelfest & Taking The Air

Two friends of mine have commented, at different times and unbeknownst to each other, that I’m pretty much an old lady. Why? I guess because I prefer to stay home, pretty much, and I go to bed early. And I drink a lot of tea. And I use words like “unbeknownst” and say things to myself like, “I’m having a devil of a time threading this needle!”

But the Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis is having a celebration from May 22-31st that all dorky “old ladies” of German heritage like me (and I suppose people who refer to themselves as “foodies”), will coo over: Spargelfest! What is it? Why, it’s a celebration of that most old lady of vegetables, asparagus. One eats many asparagus-laden dishes and then perhaps “takes the air” on Nicollet Avenue. A promenade, if you will, down a street filled with “boom cars” that need to be tsk-tsk’d.

I grew up working in my family’s produce market, so I know which vegetables really excite old ladies. The first of the growing season is asparagus; rhubarb is a distant second. They want (we want?) only the most slender of stalks; the young stuff. I guess that makes us like cougars, in a way, going after the young, fresh stuff! The thicker and older asparagus is, the more “woody” it tastes. I’ve spent hours of my life putting asparagus into one pound bundles, trimming off the ends and taking it out by the pan-full to a waiting gaggle of ladies. Once asparagus finishes its growing season, the old ladies move on to “peas in the pod” or snow peas. I can just hear one of them now, rasping over the phone, “Do you have the snow peas today? Are they fresh? When were they picked?” And let’s not even get started on the frenzy the strawberry season induces…

But I digress. Apparently, towns throughout central Germany hold Spargelfests. From the World Reviewer website:

“Today between April and June, Germans go crazy for white asparagus and in Schwetzingen where it all began they hold a huge asparagus festival (Spargelfest) in its honour. At the festival there are stalls selling dishes made with the asparagus. The most famous of these is asparagus with a hollandaise sauce and smoked ham, but there is also asparagus soup, sausage and asparagus and even asparagus ice-cream. The day also features the crowning of the asparagus king or queen, who has grown the heaviest stalk and a grand peel off where competitors are judged not only on the amount of stalks they peel, but on the quality of their peeling.”

How German! It’s not just how many stalks you peel but the workmanship of your peeling! How precise you are! How exact! The award isn’t going to go someone who’s slipshod in their work, no way. That would be American – to reward someone for being fast but not necessarily accurate. And what would I give to be crowned Spargelfest Queen? I’m seeing me in a long, green sequined gown, a crown of twisted stalks on my head, waving to the crowd… and my German hips would be loved and appreciated, maybe even lusted after! And it would look great on my resume; give me some much-needed pizazz.

I wonder how much everyone’s pee stinks after a full day at Spargelfest? If you love to eat asparagus, you know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, The Black Forest will be the place to be to celebrate the mighty stalk in Minneapolis. Not the white kind the Germans love; this will be the green variety. The kind that sometimes grows wild in ditches in Wisconsin and familes that look like the Joads on the way out to California can be seen picking it.

Their menu, according to Edible Twin Cities, will include: deep-fried asparagus (Of course!), asparagus pierogie, crepes with asparagus and asparagus-infused cocktails. It all sounds very merry indeed and inspires me to come up with my own asparagus creation. Maybe a savory asparagus biscuit or a dumpling stuffed with asparagus and onions? Served with a white German wine, of course. If you want to get in on some aspargus cooking action of your own, you can download a brochure of asparagus recipes from the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. Judging from their site, they believe they have the corner on the market of the best asparagus in the U.S.

For true asparagus enthusiasts, there is even a documentary about asparagus that claims to cover the U.S. War on Drugs, Free Trade and a Fast Food Nation. Check out Asparagus The Movie!

My big question is: What to wear to Spargelfest? I think I will need to find a dainty dress and perhaps a hat with some stalks. And birds.

A hat perfect for Spargelfest!