Monday night, dinner time, and my thoughts turn - as the thoughts of all good manual labourers do - to the question of food. Last Thursday, for a rock-bottom bargain-basement deal-of-the-century sum, I bought myself 3kg of Brussel sprouts, allegedly winner of the 2002 "Britain's Most Loathed Vegetable" title. I don't like Brussel sprouts much either, nor sea cucumbers. Never have. But I'm not one to let mere matters of palatability stand between me and a good deal.
Since Thursday, I have eaten a prodigious number of sprouts. I have eaten them at home. I have eaten them at work. I have even eaten them in the pub. I have carried sprouts with me at all hours of the day and night, lest the slightest hint of hunger should assist me through what is starting to seem like an undemountable mount of Belgian leafmatter.
My association with the steamed Brussel sprout has so permeated my life over the past few days, that I'm not sure I even want dinner. Those of you passingly acquainted with my customary feelings about dinner will understand that this is dire news indeed.
Thinks self, Why not dress 'em up a bit? Who says a Brussel sprout has to be steamed and naked and sitting atop a large pile of Brussel sprout comrades, emitting a solely Brussel-sproutean whiff?
I consult my cookbooks.
The Classical Cookbook, an inimitable compendium of Odyssean banquet receipts and Pompeian fishcake-making instructions, alludes to no such thing as a Brussel sprout. There's a recipe for Athenian cabbage, but cabbage is altogether a different - and preferable - beast.
Thai Feasting Vegetarian Style, likewise, entirely devoid of Brussel sprout recipes, although I'm thinking that with enough Massamun curry paste, the Brussel-sproutiness could be comprehensively disguised.
The Pooh Corner Cookbook (that's "Pooh", as in Winnie the, not "pooh" as in après-dinner-need-I-say-more): Tigger likes cheese tartlets; Eeyore advises in favour of scalloped potatoes; Rabbit enjoys apple coleslaw, with cabbage. To reiterate: cabbage is not Brussel sprout.
Middle Eastern Cooking: yes, cabbage; no, Brussel sprout.
Chocolate: chocolate almond cake, chocolate tray bake, chocolate and orange cake, chocolate cake, chocolate and vanilla loaf, saucy chocolate pudding, chocolate fudge pears, chocolate zabaglione, white chocolate truffles, chocolate caramel squares, pain au chocolat, blackberry and chocolate flan, oh chocolate, my chocolate. Needless to say, despite Chocolate's several savoury deployments of chocolate (veal in chocolate sauce, for example, which sounds like a downright waste of good chocolate), there is no Brussel sprout.
The Amazing Tomato: tomatoes, in salsas, sauces, and riding aboard onion and blue cheese quiches, but where is the green Brussel sprout? Where is it, tomato? Yes, I'm talking to you, where'd you put the Brussel sprout, eh?
My Fun to Cook: no Brussel sprout.
Sarah Brown's Vegetarian Cookbook: I flick to the index, and sure enough, "Brussels sprout", see page 235. There, on page 235, I find the Brussels sprout sitting in a column headed "food profile", where I read that for every 100 grams of Brussel sprout, I get 2.8 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of carbohydrate, 2.9 grams of fibre, a trace of fat, 18 calories, and vitamins A, B2, Fo, and C. Thanks, Sarah Brown. Sounds scrumpy.
Now is the time for all patriots and gourmands to advise. Is there such a thing as a savoury Brussel sprout, or do I compost forthwith?