It’s not you, it’s me.
I want to like you, I really do. You’ve got such pretty, delicate fronds and a bulb that reminds me of onions, one of my favorite foods.
You’re so good for me and my bones, blood pressure, heart, immune system, liver, and you may even help prevent cancer. I should like you more, Fennel, even love you. We should at least be the best of fronds.
There’s just one problem, Fennel. I don’t like the taste of licorice. I know, character flaw, right? If I could get over it I would. It’s sort of ok in some things: anise-flavored cookies, a little touch of five-spice in Asian food, a splash of absinthe in a Sazarac cocktail. Hhmmm. Yeah, definitely in a Sazarac.
I tried, Fennel, I did. I brought one of your lovely whole bulbs home from farmers’ market and I was determined to put my big girl apron on and snuggle right up to you. But then I bit into one of your raw stalks.
Words cannot describe the displeasure I felt at that moment. Or the face I was making. But again, it’s not you, Fennel, it’s me.
However, the taste of black licorice does fondly remind me of my grandmother, who absolutely LOVED it! Every Christmas, someone would send her a flat brick of it from Pennsylvania that came with a little silver hammer to break it up into chunks. (It was the same idea as “coal candy,” except in the brick form.) When I would visit my grandmother that was my job – to gently tap the licorice brick and break off a few pieces for her. It’s still one of my favorite memories.
Anyway, Fennel, maybe we can just be friends — hang out with other root vegetables like beets, onions, sweet potatoes, and your carrot relatives? That’d be cool, right? Get everyone in the roasting pan with some olive oil and spices, and then make a lovely winter soup with any leftovers. Heck, I’d even try tucking some of your roasted and mashed bulb into some cannellini bean dip or hummus, and I think I’ll give fennel confit a try. We can make this work, Fennel!
Wait … what? What did you say?! You’re not even a vegetable, but a perennial herb? WOW, you think you know an ingredient, and then they turn around and tell you they’re not who you thought they were all this time!
But let’s never mind about that. To-may-to, to-mah-to. I’m willing to try, Fennel. I really am. And hey, we’ll always have Sazaracs.
— Katy Budge