I had no idea what they were talking about. I kept hearing the word “ramps,” but I wasn’t sure if my ears were playing tricks on me.
I finally had to fess up.
I looked at them and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about! What are ramps?”
They looked at me with a bit of mild shock around their eyes. It was one of those disconnects in cultural heritage: something they had grown up knowing about along with their mother’s milk and something I had never known.
“Well now, ramps are like a wild onion that’s got a bit of garlic mixed into the flavor. They grow all over the place in this area. You pick them and add them to whatever you’re cooking. They’re good in home fries.”
“You’ve got to be careful, though. Their flavor is so strong that if you eat a lot of them, you’ll actually smell like them as you sweat. The “ramps” essence escapes through your pours.”
Someone else chimed in: “Yea. It’s actually best if you parboil them first. It helps release some of the pungency.”
I kept nodding my head trying my best to keep up with the conversation. In my head, I was trying to figure out if parboiling was the same as blanching. I think I know so much about cooking; but the more I live, the more I learn. And that’s probably why I love food and preparing it so much — it’s like a lifetime love affair that never gets dull, because there are always new things to learn.
A look of amusing nostalgia swept over his face and he chuckled: “I remember being a kid waiting for the school bus. When the doors would open, this wave of stale, ramp-smelling air would rush out and bowl me over. You couldn’t deny it was Spring and that all the families had been out picking and cooking with ramps. Ugh.”
We all laughed at the obvious misery of the situation.
The next day, he took me to the other side of the fish pond, where the ramps grow on their land. He showed me how to pick them and we talked about how to cook them.
The adventures in “cooking with ramps” begins…