Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Asparagus Man

I've made a new friend. His name is Lorne and he is THE expert on pickled asparagus. Let me tell you the story.

I was picking up asparagus last week and happened to catch one of the owners of the farm at home. We started talking about food and I mentioned that I was interested in pickling asparagus. She claimed to know the perfect person for me to talk to - Lorne. Apparently, he has been pickling asparagus for years. She told me to drop in on him, that he would probably be very happy to share his recipe and tips.

Ellen and I dropped by his house one morning. I pulled into the driveway, surveying things from the safety of the car. There were no cars in the driveway, but Lorne was sitting outside in a lawn chair. I waved and he threw his hands up in the air with a look of sheer delight, as if to say, "Finally you're here! It's so good to see you!"

Describing Lorne as tickled pink would be an understatement. Within a minute of our introductions, I found myself caught in a big bear hug from a man that, besides being a pickled asparagus maker of some repute, I didn't know from Adam.

He ushered me into the house, where he keeps his recipe for pickled asparagus under the phone book in the kitchen. The recipe wasn't where he thought it would be; his wife had been doing some cleaning and must have moved it, he explained. He grabbed a jar of the asparagus and two forks and we headed back outside. I tasted a couple of the asparagus spears, and they were good. Besides the main ingredient, there were cloves of garlic, pink and black peppercorns, and a red chilli pepper. When I begged off having more, he told me that I could take the jar home.

Throughout this time, Lorne kept shaking his head and saying that he just couldn't believe how great it was that I had stopped in. In no time, I found out many details of his life, the pickled asparagus bridging the gap between us. At almost 80 years of age, there was a lot of history to catch up on. Our visit probably lasted less than 15 minutes, but you would be shocked if I told you what I discovered about my new friend during that brief meeting.

While I was there, I had many thoughts running through my mind. "Are you crazy? Don't go into the house with him. What if he's a creep?" And into the house I go. "I hope this asparagus is ok to eat. I wonder when his wife is coming back? Oh, the lengths I'll go to for a recipe..." And out for a tour of his wife's garden I go. What I realized after my visit was that he was not a creep, nor was he senile. I think he was a lonely person who was thrilled to have a young person (ok, I'll say it - a woman) stop in for a visit, express interest in one of his hobbies, and give him the time of day. It amazes me time and time again how food brings the unlikeliest of people together, no matter their ages or their backgrounds.

Around dinner time that evening, I was busy in the kitchen when I heard Ellen call out, "Mom! The asparagus man is here!" Sure enough, Lorne had photocopied the recipe for the pickled asparagus and was dropping it off. Yes, I must have mentioned where I lived. No, I don't mind if "The Asparagus Man" drops by once in a while for a chat. I have followed his recipe to pickle some asparagus since then, and I think he is looking forward to critiquing them for me. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll learn something.