Brussels Sprouts – Love Them or Hate Them?

Sometimes recipes don’t reach their potential. And if you’re like me you wonder was it my fault? Or the recipes? In my quest to try a recipe from each of my cookbooks, I pulled out this classic that belongs to Dan, Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook, 1980.

Today we think nothing of cooking foods from other countries. In fact, the more exotic the better. And we have access, or at least most who live in less rural areas, to a wide variety of food that allow us to cook the recipes. Growing up in the 1970s, I ate no foods from other cultures, not even Chinese. That is until I went away to college where I began to experience a bit more.

By the time I went to DC for graduate school in 1981 a whole world opened up to me. I worked in the school library with refugees from Vietnam and Ethiopia who gladly fed me their home cooked meals.  And I had my first Indian cuisine while dating a man whose mother was from India. Yes, the 1980s was a good time for those willing to eat beyond their comfort zone.

The foreword to the Betty Crocker cookbook states they were “inspired by the escalating interest of Americans in foreign foods.” With more than 450 recipes from 50 countries they conclude by saying “Adventure awaits you.” I have to laugh looking at the Americanized recipes in this cookbook. None of it seems adventurous to me today.  But in my cooking quest I decided to try Brussels Sprouts Parmigiana.

The recipe’s description says that Brussels sprouts were developed in Belgium in the 16th century.  A bit of research on the internet confirms this but there are far more details about this either loved or hated vegetable. According to several sources, there was a form of Brussels sprouts eaten in Roman times. The first written mention of them was in the 1200s in Belgium and then again in the late 16th century.Obviously the name comes from the fact that these tasty morsels came from Belgium.

The sprouts were supposed to arrive in this country in the 18th century imported by French settlers to Louisiana. Thomas Jefferson also planted them in his garden in Monticello. He may have also been introduced to them while living in France. But it wasn’t until the 1920s when commercial growers grew Brussels sprouts in California, that this vegetable was widely known.

When I grew up, all our Brussels sprouts were frozen. And indeed, it was the sprouts excellent ability to be frozen that led to them being served on many a mid-20th century table. As we all know, some people hate Brussels sprouts. Just check out this great You Tube Video from “Leave it to Beaver” where Beaver does all he can to not eat the vegetable! Me, I’ve always loved them.

As an aside, all the vegetables we ate growing up were either frozen or canned. Why? Because my Dad worked for an advertising company and one of his biggest accounts was Jolly Green Giant. Thankfully, only our dog ate the Alpo from that account!  

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 lbs frozen Brussels sprouts (yes, I used fresh. I don’t eat frozen or canned vegetables anymore)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c. margarine or butter (butter, thank you)
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (growing up this was Kraft shaken from a can. Today, I grated my own)

Heat 1″ of salted water (1/2 tsp. salt to 1 cup water) to boiling

Add Brussels sprouts

Heat again to boiling and then reduce heat

Cover and cook until tender for 8-10 minutes


While the sprouts are cooking, saute chopped onions in butter until tender

Pour this over cooked Brussels sprouts

Sprinkle with the cheese                        

The results – awful. For me this was way too much butter and not enough flavor. But I have to say, isn’t that often typical of food from the 1970s and 80s?

But, I’m glad I gave it a go in that I learned a lot about the history of Brussels sprouts. If you’re like me you never thought about where the name came from or even the history of the vegetable.

Let me know if you like Brussels sprouts. Or if you too hid them from your mom like the Beaver!



One Response to “Brussels Sprouts – Love Them or Hate Them?”

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  1. Shay Simmons says:

    I do not like Brussels sprouts at all but have had them twice when they were more than edible, they were delicious.

    The first time was in France — the sprouts were braised in butter and the finished product tasted more of butter than anything else. Nobody hates butter.

    The second and third times were here in Illinois, in German restaurants; they were treated like mini-cabbages, sauteed in bacon fat and then dressed with crumbled bacon, red wine vinegar and a touch of sugar. Very, very good.

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