Three days before my twenty-seventh birthday, I woke up at nine, had brownies for breakfast, and read Harry Potter on the living room couch. Somewhere between spilling chocolate crumbs down the front of my shirt, and reading about a giant bank run by goblins, I became very self-aware -- that this was probably not, by proper standards, a very adult-like way to start one's day.
To be fair, I'm reading Harry Potter in Spanish, in my third novelistic attempt to improve my second language skills. I first started with Gabriel García Márquez's El General en su laberinto (The General in His Labyrinth). That proved to be too ambitious, no matter how much I carried the book around in my bag, from subway to Spanish class to museum. I decided to try something I'd read before, then, in English, so I picked up El Americano impasible (The Quiet American) by Graham Greene . . . but that too fell by the wayside, on the nightstand, collecting dust.
Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal is proving to be much more fun for me to read -- the only genuine reason I am eager to pick up a book, anyway. I understand, on average, about ninety percent of the prose, and continue to learn as I go along. In addition to developing a deeper understanding of the subjunctive, and the various uses of the various past tenses, I am learning vocabulary words like "varita" and "lechuza" and "hechicería" ("wand" and "owl" and "sorcery"), which I'm sure will be very helpful when I go back to the States and start looking for a job.
I came across a part this morning, though, that made me frown. It's the bit where Harry and Ron have just met for the first time, on the train ride to Hogwarts, and the snack-selling lady stops by their cabin with her cart. Harry is enticed by the Every Flavor Jelly Beans and Ron warns him that the candies are, truly, every flavor -- even spinach, and liver, and tripe. Ron picks a green one, and bits into it gingerly: "See? Brussels sprouts."
While I fully concur that it would be very weird to eat certain foods in jelly bean form (including jelly beans), why oh why are things like spinach, and liver, and tripe, considered gross from the get go? I think the author picked these foods not because they would be unsuccessful candy flavors, but for the gut reaction they get when mentioned at all. What's JK Rowling's beef with liver?
There are some foods that, even as children (as evidenced by children's books), we are supposed to just not like. We're supposed to cringe at the threat of cabbage, of spinach, of beets. Liver, though it comes in so many delicious sizes and shapes and flavors, is simply pictured as chopped, stranded and forlorn. And while it's true that many of these flavors may be a bit strong for children's tender taste buds, we so often grow into adulthood without giving them a fair chance.
So, I say, in defiance of brownies-for-breakfast and Ron Weasley, I will have beets for dinner. I have a dish already in mind: sticky, creamy risotto finished off with roasted beets and crumbled blue cheese. Not food strictly for adults, of course, but it will certainly make me feel grown-up.