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4.24.13 Pale Fire

My love of white asparagus started early in life. I was 8 years old and living with my family in Madrid during my father's sabbatical year. We traveled around the country quite a bit, often staying at wonderful paradores. These are state-owned hotels in historic castles and monasteries, many in spectacular locations, and generally decked in musty brocade with full suits of armor lurking in corners.

It was quite standard for us to order three courses whenever we ate out—which was a lot—and my choice of appetizer was often a vegetable. I loved judías blancas, meaty white beans in a chorizo-flecked tomato sauce; and judías verdes, green beans cooked to within an inch of their lives in plenty of garlic and olive oil. But my very favorite was white asparagus: three or four jumbo spears, as silky and tender as can be, cloaked with a rich veil of yellow mayonnaise. (In Spain, the best white asparagus come from Navarra, and a great many of them are preserved for sale in tins and jars, which does not diminish their flavor at all.) It's a taste of childhood that has haunted me over the years, cropping up with reassuring consistency.
Tagged — Spanish asparagus