Because I was such a picky eater as a kid and gagged over nearly everything, I can always recall precisely when my feelings toward certain foods took a turn for the better. Not only that, but I clearly remember how the food was prepared, and I know exactly what I read that piqued my interest in the hated food in the first place. Yes, reading makes me hungry for food I wouldn’t otherwise touch with a ten-foot fork.*

I’m not talking about such usual suspects as Calvin Trillin, M.F.K. Fisher, or Eat Pray Love, either. No, my inspirations were much weirder. For instance, Bread and Jam for Frances got me eating soft-boiled eggs when all I used to endure was scrambled; Gerald Durrell had me craving grilled tomatoes on toast; Dickens made me try plum pudding; and perhaps most importantly of all, Sweet Valley High got me into asparagus.

It was in Power Play. Wealthy and spoiled Lila Fowler is caught shoplifting to get her father’s attention. The angelic, nosy, and — as of this year — “perfect size 4” Elizabeth Wakefield manages to come to Lila’s rescue. Because of this, Mr. and Lila Fowler take Elizabeth out to a fancy restaurant to thank her for being nosy and angelic and having a gold lavaliere. Never mind that Lila eventually went back to her rich-bitchy ways. Never mind that the main story is all about “chubby” Robin Wilson losing weight, gaining lip gloss, and making Bruce Patman walk into a door — all I took away from that book was that Elizabeth had asparagus tips at the fancy restaurant.

Asparagus tips. I kept turning the words over and over in my head. I wanted asparagus tips. Except that I didn’t really, did I? My older sister and I used to go around giggle-whispering, “Asparag-ASS” whenever that vegetable came up in polite conversation. (We thought we were so clever.) I remember wishing longingly that “asparagus tips” weren’t a vegetable. That it meant something else entirely, preferably having to do with meat, Doritos, or cream cheese.

Nevertheless, I finally tried it. I tried it roasted. I wallowed in the crispy, olive oil-saturated tips. I got primal and ate with my hands. I sucked the salt and pepper of my asparagussed fingertips. My longing was requited, and I was crushing hard. Asparagus is back in season and tonight I’m having my spring crush over for dinner. He needn’t dress, it’s nothing fancy.

asparagus with cheese

Simply Roasted Asparagus

Serves 4 as a side dish


1 lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Preheat oven to 400°

1. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 8-10 minutes.
2. Serve cold with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
*(Conversely, Ramona Quimby made me despise tongue and Fig Newtons even to this day.)

Asparagus and Sweet Valley High 13 April,2008Stephanie Lucianovic

  • june2

    The same thing happened to me with books and food, though I don’t have the specifics. I do remember reading a lot of historical fiction and that one section in particular, a lengthy section about the potato famine of Ireland, went on for so long – literally 15 pages or so, strictly about all the many ways potatoes were prepared and enjoyed and missed that all I wanted to eat for days were potatoes, naturally! I loved them plain, with butter and Mrs. Dash Original. That became my staple for years as a teenager : )

  • OMG, I used to LOVE Sweet Valley High! The lavaliere!

  • Doug Utter

    Ms. Lucianovic,

    Is it true that you have a recipe for tongue and fig newtons? I’ve thought often long and sometimes hard for a way to get these two together. Please share!

  • Meg

    Bread and Jam for Frances was just one of many children’s books that I loved because of it’s descriptions of food (for me it was the school lunches). In fact, almost all of my favorite books as a kid were food centered. Berenstain Bears, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth. At least I’m not the only one fixated on fictional food.


Stephanie Lucianovic

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for,, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED’s Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED’s Emmy-award winning show “Check, Please! Bay Area.”

Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater’s Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called “hilarious” and “the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn’t think he or she wants to read a popular science book.”

Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade.

Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport

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