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Asparagus Season is Fleeting. This Easy Recipe Is Forever.

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.

I thought I came up with a whole new expression.

It turns out I didn’t.

I was thinking about asparagus and how it evokes emotion: the anticipation of its coming, followed by the thrill of its short season’s finally arriving. But there’s another emotion I was trying to put into words: that melancholy — sadness, even — of being in a moment and knowing it will soon be over. It makes the present feel gloomy, as if it has already passed. We get it elsewhere: a moment with your child or aging parent when time stands still. I get it at work, too, when photographing a cookbook and a group of us come together to make a set, to put on a production. It’s so real and vivid, and then, just like that, it’s over.


Recipe: Grilled Asparagus With Miso and Olives


German came to mind, with its countless words that manage to encapsulate so precisely what Brits and Americans can take sentences to convey. Someone might be feeling frühjahrsmüdigkeit at this time of the year, for example: a state of lethargy or “springtime fatigue,” left over from the long winter. Weight gained as a result of emotional overeating is kummerspeck, translating literally to “grief bacon.”

“Anticipatory nostalgia,” I thought.

Except there is not only a single expression but an entire school of thought based on the idea of “anticipatory nostalgia.” Of course there’s a fully explored subcategory of nostalgia — what was I thinking? — and of course I’m not the first to identify this feeling. Still, I’ve yet to come across the link between this emotion and asparagus, a very particular spring vegetable, and so, for now, I will claim this sub-subcategory as my own.

There’s something else that asparagus encourages me to cultivate, a skill rather than an emotion, and that’s the need for patience. There is an understandable temptation, at the first hint of spring, to rush toward the season’s offerings. After the heaviness of winter, we want to make the most of every lighter day and greener meal: to asparagus it up for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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