Around this time of the year there is one thing that I hear over and over again: “You must be so happy that it’s April and spring is here.” April is a double-edged sword. On one side, you are beyond excited because all the little spring shoots finally come out and you get to cook with something green for the first time in 5 months. On the other side, there is actually no vegetables left to cook with from the winter and there are really no vegetables of any substance ready in spring.
So when we get some semblance of a vegetable, everyone goes nuts. There’s a run on the first asparagus and rhubarb in the beginning of April, and most of the time, it’s not because they actually taste good, but simply because they are available. When I see asparagus and rhubarb on other menus during early April, I think, ““If I’ve waited five months, I can wait three more weeks until they actually taste decent enough to serve.” But on the other hand, do you want to see winter on your menu when it’s 12 C outside? By forgoing the vegetables, all you get is a plate of pickles and preserves with a bunch of wild spring herbs. A commitment to seasonality requires a fine balance, but it’s difficult when there’s a disconnect between the weather and the availability of ingredients worth working with.
By the time you read this we will all be drowning in rhubarb and asparagus and this little dilemma will be an afterthought. But think about it the next time you ask a chef how he feels about spring. He might say he is beyond excited, but on the inside he is most likely struggling with having one foot in the spring and one foot in the winter.