Asparagus can be a sticky subject

25th November 2005 at 00:00
Asparagus can be a sticky subject, Bill Hicks discovers

Was it food tech for toffs, an attempt at surreal satire, or just another politically incorrect wind-up?

When "Do we do enough for asparagus?" turned up in the Opinion forum on Friday, I suspected the latter, even though the opening post (or OP, as they say around here) adhered strictly to culinary matters:

"Bechamel or fried in butter. Is that all there is?" asked themanwhowouldbeking. "I've heard of people roasting it along with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar; it's also used in tarts. Surely there must be more."

However, our would-be monarch's next posting, eight minutes later, gave the game away: "Have you noticed how asparagus seems to find difficulty in forming social relationships?"

It became clear, even to the doziest of monitors (me), that this thread was only nominally about asparagus, and was actually about Asperger's syndrome - or at least, about a number of recent threads demanding that the condition should be taken more seriously by schools.

For a while, the thread lurched between Little Britain-style bad taste, and apparently innocent recipe swapping. Had some posters not cottoned on?

Middlemarch offered "steamed as normal, eat sprinkled with lemon juice and shavings of parmesan", but later begged us not to forget the tinned variety: "It has been unfairly placed in a special setting - include it in mainstream meals, that's what I say."

Vickymcd00 was worried: were any of these suggestions "really meeting the needs of the asparagus? "Should we not complete some form of review document to make sure?"

There was a great deal more in this vein, and the joke - if that's what it was -was wearing rather thin until the intervention of Aspie Girl, who admitted to having encountered the vegetable only in the form of chicken and asparagus pie.

Aspie girl, a student with Asperger's syndrome, has been posting on the topic (among much else) since May, and her arrival here was greeted with applause: "Well said, Aspie. There will be no progress until we all admit we don't do enough for asparagus."

At this point, Ballerina, the author of many threads about Asperger's, entered the fray, and was not in a jovial mood: "No, we do not do enough for Asperger's. How old are all of you? 10?"

If this was an attempt to shame other posters into silence, it failed. By Saturday morning, at least three new threads about this thread had started.

In one of them, Cariad2 posted a lengthy explanation of why teachers might feel hectored, and why they resorted to irony. With some more help from Aspie Girl, there appeared to be some reconciliation.

Cariad2 also had what should be the last word on the asparagus thread: "Not only am I so common that I've never eaten asparagus (I never even heard of it when I was growing up), but I'm not sure which bits you are supposed to eat.

"Asparagus for beginners. Tips needed please (excuse the bad pun)."

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website.

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