Contrary to George Bush, we love broccoli. Thus we are sincerely grateful to the Etruscans, the famed horticultural geniuses of the ancient world, who “engineered” this “flowering crest of cabbage” – broccolo in Italian – almost 3 millennia ago (https://www.thespruceeats.com).
Peaceful and creative people, they developed a thriving civilization, bestowing upon us, among many other things, the Latin alphabet we are using today. I choose to believe that their lively creative spirit still lives in my favorite part of Italy, Tuscany, whose very name attests to its Etruscan ancestry. How do we know that?
You can skip through the linguistic technicalities, but the very first adjective used in this video is “wealthy.” Etruscans were not only accomplished builders and agronomists, they were also clever traders, importing their products both to the Celtics in the north and the Greeks in the south. Undoubtedly, they were the ones who introduced Celtic world to the new vegetable that flourished in the cold climate and offered many nutritional and medicinal benefits – broccoli.
Sadly, neither Etruscans, nor Celtics were warlike people, so the Romans grabbed Etruria (the Etruscan lands) in about 500 BCE, absorbing it into first the Roman republic, and then the Roman Empire. The Celtics (not to be confused with the Boston basketball team, Beautiful People!), rather less peaceful than the Etruscans, rose to fight.
But love intervenes and, while Orvieso, the High Priest of the Druids, begs his deities to inspire his people to fight and destroy the Roman invaders, his daughter Norma, herself the High Priestess, not only falls in love with the Roman pro-council Pollione, but violates her vows of chastity and bears him two sons. This story of love and war is, of course, only a beautiful legend, but transformed by the genius of Vincenzo Bellini into a riveting opera, it has been capturing hearts since XIX century. Especially poignant are immortal words of the famous aria Casta Diva, when Norma is pleading with the goddess of moon to “temper the ardent hearts” and “scatter peace across the earth”:
I am sure we can all relate to this message, delivered by the haunting dramatic soprano of the great Maria Callas. It all ends tragically, though, as the lovers perish in the flames of sacrificial pyre. However, their kids survive – don’t worry! – and the Romans eventually leave. Broccoli also survives and becomes one of the popular foodstuffs, eventually making it to the US through the good offices of Thomas Jefferson, an avid gardener.
With all this incredibly rich history, our favorite broccoli salad is surprisingly simple: you divide raw broccoli into florets and chop the stems (yes, I do use the stems), roughly chop red onion, and crush a handful of walnuts. Mix it all with your preferred mayo (I use Vegenaise), add salt, pepper, and sugar or sweetener, generously sprinkle fresh dill on top, and voilà! – you have a delicious salad, whose nutritional and medicinal benefits have stayed the same for 3 millennia.
- 1 head of broccoli (makes about 4 cups)
- 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
- 1/3 cup or more Vegenaise (or any mayonnaise of your choice)
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- Salt, pepper, sugar or sweetener to taste (I use Zylitol)
- Separate broccoli into small florets, chop stems.
- Add chopped onion and crushed walnuts. Add Vegenaise.
- Season with salt, pepper, sugar or sweetener. Mix well.
- Garnish with chopped fresh dill.
About the guest author:
Dolly Aizenman is the brainchild behind Kool Kosher Kitchen (Which her blog and her book are named after).
This charismatic Russian blogger is fond of cooking and writing.
She has a BA in Art and Music Education, MA in English, MS in Education and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.