It’s official: I’m a grown-up. After a couple years of wondering when I would get there, how I would know, if I would like it, I suddenly happened upon it. Earlier this fall I thought I was there when I spent a full week debating whether to buy a Brita water filter, doing cost-benefit analyses between the pitcher and bottled water while standing in the beverage aisle. Clearly though, I hadn’t fully arrived, as I forgot to factor in the monthly purchase of new filters, which would have skewed my analysis in the opposite direction. But last week this new life stage came and left no room for uncertainty. How did I know? Brussels sprouts. That’s right, I bought and cooked and ate them, all with no prodding from someone older and healthier than I.
Here in my little corner of Bulgaria, green vegetables are scarce at this time of year. Do not be deceived by the garden bounty photos from the canning post. I began feeling some withdrawal around mid-October, as the last of the tomatoes and zucchini dried up, losing market space to dirt-caked, imposing root vegetables. Occasionally there would be a few wrinkly heads of broccoli in the grocery store next to the romaine lettuce. But right now we’re mostly down to potatoes, turnips, and some other tubers that I have no idea what to do with. I have mostly been going with frozen spinach and carrots, but the grand balance of my diet has been tipped more heavily toward cookies.
Then last week I was at the store, and there was a crate full of sprouts. I picked up a box, looked them over skeptically, and put it back down. I’m not that desperate, I thought, and went along with my shopping. The next day I came back for some milk, and they were still there. Looking over another box, I considered the way that all my internal organs are probably shriveling and plotting to shut down on me while I sleep. I sighed and put it in my basket. Maybe they wouldn’t be as bad as I remembered.
They weren’t. Once home, I cooked roasted them with garlic, the way that all those progressive food bloggers say has transformed their view of Brussels sprouts (or maybe this is reactionary, not progressive, since it uses an oven instead of a microwave). It didn’t exactly transform them into cotton candy in the oven, but I did eat far more sprouts than I ever have in one sitting before, without even throwing any away. This is something no child does for herself, so I was left to conclude that I had cast off the ways of my youth. Yes, all my older family members should feel free to applaud quietly at their computers. It’s been a big week.
Now that I have reached this milestone, I’m not really sure how to handle it. I spent tonight baking and knitting (truly), but my guess is that’s jumping a little too far ahead in life. So what do I do next? Open an IRA? Host a Tupperware party? Get a mullet? I already feel old at work when I realize that my students did not grow up arguing over which Backstreet Boy was the cutest. (Obviously Nick won then, but Brian is the clear choice in retrospect. He has a dreamily stable career and family life.) I don’t even know the names of the One Direction boys. On the other hand, my mom made the comment over winter break that I have been 30 since I was 3, so maybe I have been here my whole life anyway. Either way, bring on the grown-up vegetables. I can handle them … unless, of course, they are mushrooms. Then I would rather be sent to time out.