“Yuck.” When I was a child, that’s what my mother said each time my father suggested that she make brussels sprouts to serve with dinner. This horrified me. How awful must these brussels sprouts be if even a grown-up wouldn’t eat them? As I grew up, I began to take my father’s occasional request for these things as a sort of joke, and by the time I became a teenager, my mother started answering with “yeah, right.” Clearly, brussels sprouts were so bad that it was inconceivable for anyone to actually eat one.
Fast forward more than a decade to Mariah and I, happy but poor newlyweds, standing over a colossal tub of brussels sprouts in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. “Well, they are on sale,” she said. I thought that “on sale” was an understatement given that we could afford to buy on the spot pretty much as many as we thought we could eat. “How bad could they really be,” I wondered aloud. We shrugged at one another, and I shook open a plastic bag. “I feel like you can just roast them in the oven with a little oil and toss them with grated Parmesan,” she said, transferring handfuls of them into the bag. Back at our apartment in Squirrel Hill, where we’d taped paper over all the front windows in hopes that the creepy Russians would stop stepping through the bushes and pressing their faces up against the glass to look at us while we were inside, and where our cat had successful, daily, indoor hunts for daddy longlegs, roaches, and a variety of beetles, we made use of our bounty and sat down at our hand-me-down table with big plates of oven roasted brussels with Parmesan. I took a bite and looked at Mariah, who had done the same. We smiled, and started to sink our teeth into little cabbage after little cabbage. They were a little bit salty, savory, cheesy, and perfectly filling. “We could eat these more often,” I said between bites. “Mmmhmm,” Mariah said, not looking up from her brussels.