Author Topic: Behold the Noble Sprout


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Behold the Noble Sprout
« on: December 26, 2006 »
Back when I was a kid, we had a huge old Belfast sink in the kitchen.  Every Christmas morning it would be full of knuckle-achingly cold water and vegetable peelings as the ritual preparation of absolutely bloody everything took place all at once.  And I remember my old Nan sternly telling us the correct Method of Preparation of the little green farty bullets we all know and love:

   1. Rinse off the mud and wildlife.
   2. Cut off the scraggly end.
   3. Peel away the big, discoloured leaves.
   4. Cut a cross in the bottom so the Devil can't get to them.
   5. Boil them to within an inch of their lives.

Now, on point five I disagree: the ideal sprout is steamed, not boiled, and for no more than about 8 minutes.  It should still be sweet, bright green, and firm-yet-yielding to the tooth.  Cooked thus, they are toothsome and delicious, and even better cold the next day with ketchup in a sandwich.  Methinks the reason Nan liked them boiled to mush had something to do with 1970s NHS dentures, but the habit passed on to my mother before I saw sense and nipped it in the bud.  Or sprout, so to speak.

But point four has been fascinating me all day, ever since I washed, trimmed, peeled, and sanctified my Yuletide sprouts.   I don't believe in the Devil, at least not in the form of a sprout-molesting bogeyman.  Where had this crazy notion come from?   Cutting the base is cited as ensuring even cooking, making the thick base cook as fast as the leaves.  Could it be that any cross-cutting just picks up Christian baggage?  Or is this a sprout-specific sanctification scheme, inspired by the distinctly sulphurous smell of badly-cooked sprouts?  Is the reek of boiled brassica a scary hint of the Pit, best warded off by a plethora of rough-cut crucifixes?

The Cross to be inscribed or as it where, cut, into the surface of the sprout, is an early christian practice, part of a ritual to protect against the manifestation of what, according to some scholars and translators of ancient texts, appears to be the the Sumarian demon, Y'traf. First mention of this practice occurs in a little know translation of a paparyus scroll, roughly concurent in age with that of the gospel of St Mark, discoverd in a cave on the shores of the dead sea some time in the late 14th century by a Bedoiun herdsman. Later supressed on the instructions of Pope Clementine IIIXX, on the behest of certain Northern European cardinals, the scroll explains the use of vegitative ritual, in the Clensing and digestive worship of early Christian closed comunities. Roughly translations, from the ancient Aramaic, (performed in the late 19th century on extant hand transcribed copies of the scroll discovered by chance, by drunken students serching the shelves of the Bodlian Library in search of a legendary recipie for hangover free ale), The cross was inscribed on the top side of the sacred bud, by means of a finly wrought silver blade which had been blessed by the elders of the church. In this way the demon Y'traf, (whoes name translates as 'he who destroys the equilibrium of the atmosphere and the sweetness of the air"), could be prevented from inhabiting the digestive tract of those who consumed the sacred sprout. Thus preventing them from being outcast from the community and forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights untill the results of the demons possetion had dissipated.

Hope this helps