Saturday, February 15, 2014

Travel to Austin


This past week my wife and I visited the great Texas state capitol city, Austin. We stayed at a very nice downtown hotel, took in some of the sites and ate at some very fine establishments. I learned the expression “Keep Austin Weird”  words I had never heard until this past week.
I have to say that we thoroughly enjoyed the LBJ Museum and Library and the exhibits at the Harry Ransom Center on the UT campus. The Congress Street bridge bats were still in Mexico, so we missed that attraction. The Zilker Botantical Gardens was a nice stop, although the recent frigid weather has lessened that venue’s appeal, at least until warmer weather brings its denizens back to life.
The most striking thing about Austin, however, the one thing that sticks out in my mind from our entire stay is “Brussel Sprouts.” I know what you’re thinking, “Did he just report that Brussel Sprouts are more memorable than the Gutenberg Bible, which can be seen on the UT campus, or the events leading up to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, exhibited at the LBJ museum?” Maybe it’s a typo or maybe Dr.Gelber has finally lost his perspective, and his marbles.
But, it is neither. Allow me to elucidate. Each day in Austin we would scout out the local restaurants and decide where we wanted to have dinner. The first day we went to “The Chili Parlor” an Austin institution which really did make great chili. It was in the days after this that the Brussel Sprouts insinuated themselves into our vacation.
As we perused different eateries and read reviews online there was an oft repeated phrase: “great brussel sprouts” or “even if you hate brussel sprouts you’ll love them at _______” (fill in the blank) or “brussel sprouts to die for.” I must qualify my comments at this point: All my life I have hated brussel sprouts. I have kept an open mind about them over the years, but every time I try them I reach the same conclusion: I hate brussel sprouts.
But, there we were, inundated with praise for a vegetable that I despise. I am capable of change, however, and my wife has a bit more regard for these miniature cabbages than me. So, we went out to a Japanese restaurant, Unicko, which was truly great, every dish we tried was fantastic, even the Brussel Sprouts.
Hmm, maybe I’ve been too harsh on this leafy green vegetable.
The Brussel Sprouts came drenched in a spicy red sauce, each leaf individually flavored and they were really, really good. After giving it some thought I realized that the reason they were so good is that the sauce overpowered the Brussel Sprout essence and would have been tasty poured over shredded cardboard.
The remaining restaurants reconfirmed my antipathy. We tried fancily prepared Brussel Sprouts on two other occasions and they turned out to be just Brussel Sprouts, still the same as I’d always remembered, proving you can dress up a vegetable as much as you want but it will still be Brussel Sprouts.
After seeing so much enthusiasm for a barely palatable vegetable I wondered if it was just an Austin thing or a national phenomenon. Inquiry among Austin natives was fruitless, Google also was no help.
We finally came up with several reasons why Brussel Sprouts were such a staple on the menus of Austin’s finest eateries:
1. Austin is a college town. Over fifty thousand students attend the University of Texas, all free from parental supervision. Perhaps the prevalence of Brussel Sprouts is a way for parents to maintain a bit of control over their now liberated offspring. Even if they are not physically present to admonish their sons and daughters to “eat you Brussel Sprouts, they’re good for you,” the presence of this vegetable along with the praise heaped upon them by Internet reviewers may deceive the unsuspecting student into consuming their Brussel Sprouts.
2. Brussel Sprouts may be a weapon utilized by unscrupulous characters hoping to influence the politicians who frequent our state’s capitol. Although I have no proof, I believe that Brussel Sprouts may have some sort of concealed effect which renders the consumer docile and pliable. Thus our state Senators and Representatives may be unwitting dupes in an international plot to control the Texas state government. Certainly Governor Perry often acts like something or someone is controlling his mental faculties.
3. Brussel Sprouts are one more weapon in the never ending struggle to “Keep Austin Weird.”
Whatever diabolical reason may be behind the Brussel Sprouts plot we did manage to survive. How? Good Question. Let’s just say we discovered a powerful antidote to the Brussel Sprout scourge: