Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Babies? Or just little?

It was a sunny summer’s day in a hilltop village somewhere near Florence, Italy, when they were sighted: Tiny little skewered birds being served at the next table, and at a lot of tables.  As bizarre as this appeared, the locals were loving it, so it was a “must try”.  I learned later that these were actually wild songbirds, a traditional dish whose vital components – the birds – are now completely illegal to trap and serve commercially.

It was an interesting glimpse into the past, when people had to trap whatever they could to feed their families.  I was reminded of this when the Greenwich CT Historical Society presented an exhibition of artifacts and photographs documenting the lives of immigrants who came to this country from another part of Italy. Determined and hardworking, these were folks whose families were in poverty and hungry. They sought, and found, new lives here for generations to come.



Another memorable mini bird encounter was the day I arrived in Paris for the first time.  Shopping for lunch with my hostess, Madame, after an overnight flight (with too much time spent talking and not enough sleeping), my gut reaction as she completed the purchase of quail was to be aghast that we would be eating these tiny, helpless things.

Needless to say, myMEGusta got over that silliness after the first bite, and after realizing that these were just small, fully grown birds, raised for the table.

On the other hand, little vegetables usually are just that, immature babies which be costly and cute, and only sometimes worth the bother.

Deep Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Deep Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini flowers are a personal favorite, lightly stuffed with cheese and deep fried.

Snap Pea Shoot

Snap Pea Shoot

Snap pea shoots, fresh from the backyard garden, often including the emerging pea flower and flash sautéed are best, although pea shoots are available in Asian markets.

My first sight of a loofah was in a household goods catalogue of some sort, and I eventually came across loofah seeds, quite an interested thing to grow, I thought, but how many loofah sponges does one need?

Loofah Sponge

Loofah Sponge

Then came the discovery of baby loofah prepared Szechuan style, one of my absolute favorite vegetables. Who knew? “Baby” shrimp aren’t babies, by the way, they are just  species which happens to be little.

Baby Loofah with Dried Baby Shrimp

Baby Loofah with Dried Baby Shrimp

On a related topic, tiny garden pests, chipmunks are as cute as can be, but not so amusing when they invade the garden, a behavior one would expect from deer and rabbits. My most recent encounter with this was when attempting to grow cherry tomatoes on my urban front porch (too high for the bunnies and that’s one area the deer don’t bother with). The plant was just on the verge of starting to yield dozens of beautiful, red orbs, when most disappeared overnight. The next day, I viewed the culprit: a chipmunk earnestly climbing up the vine and making off with one that had ripened overnight. So much for that gardening idea and thank god for the farmers’ market.

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2 thoughts on “Babies? Or just little?

  1. Bea Crumbine on said:

    How great you are! Thank you for tying in the exhibition with immigrant food and your skewered songbirds! Peter was confronted with a plate of these little delicacies in Sardinia and curious as to how to eat them — good but he came home and told me he had eaten Tweety Bird!

    xo Bea

  2. Lula Kopper on said:

    One of my first trips to Germany, the group assembled for dinner at the hotel where we were staying. The hotel, it turned out, had a very good restaurant. Our waiter didn’t speak much English, and I couldn’t read the German menu, so I asked him for a recommendation. He told me I would like the special. Since we had never seen each other before, and he couldn’t tell me what the special was, I was dubious but ordered it anyway. I still don’t know what kind of small bird came, but it was delicious!

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