The Secret Life of Vegetables

The other day I was thinking about a book I read when I was in my early teens. It was about four kids living with their father (I think he was widowed).

When the kids got bored inside, they would play various games. One game was a variation on Twenty Questions that only involved identifying people. One of the characteristics was which vegetable the person most resembled.

I thought it would be interesting to turn the idea around and give the vegetables human characteristics. So let’s join the Tomato sisters, Roma and Cherry, at a cocktail party.

Cherry is indignant. “I can’t believe I had to beg for an invitation to this party. They said it was vegetable only, and we’re fruits. I mean seriously, who knows we’re fruit except humans who remember their first biology class and these snobby Corn people. And they are so crass.

Look at Mrs. Corn. She thinks she’s being sophisticated with her husk peeled down like that. It looks like she wants to show as much kernel as she can without giving away the whole ear. And her husband is in the soaking pool with all those young corn plants.”

Roma giggles. “Look over there at the Cabbages. I don’t understand why Red ever married into the Green family. They are so boring. And she lets him go alone into Cole Slaws with the Carrots. Cherry adds, “Of course she does. He’s so dull she doesn’t have to worry about any of the Carrots being interested in him.”

Roma smirks. “I bet she doesn’t know he still goes to the Kraut Crock with the Spices. I hear he even gets a little pickled sometimes. I can’t believe she doesn’t smell it on him. Cherry says, “Well, it’s not like she has anywhere to go. Her family disowned her when she married into the Green side of the family. They’d turn her into real slaw if she went near them.”

The girls look around. A couple of the Broccolis come up. “Hi girls,” says Ben, the taller of the two. “How’d you like to get out of this place and have some real fun?” The sisters look at each other, and Cherry asks, “What do you have in mind?” Ben replies, “Well, we thought you might want to watch us work out. You know how healthy we are. Then maybe we could go back to our place and we could show you our muscles.”

The girls giggle and refuse. “Can you believe how full of himself he is? He was such a nice guy before they started writing about his family in those health magazines. I hear the whole bunch of them have turned into snobs.”

Roma says, ”It’s so crowded in this room. Let’s see what else is going on.” She opens a door and gasps as she quickly closes it.
“What? What’d you see?” asks Cherry, alarmed. Roma pulls her down the hall and whispers, “You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing in there!”

“What?” Cherry is getting frustrated.

“The green Peppers are having the red and yellow Pepper girls rub dressing all over their bodies and then licking it off of them. You’d think the Corns wouldn’t allow that type of behavior in their house.”

Cherry suggests they go outside for some fresh air. In the yard, they find the Onions talking to the Leeks. The Leeks seem to be upset about something.

“We know that you just took in those young Green Onions because they didn’t have anywhere to go, but they’re taking over the neighborhood. You can see how quickly they set down roots and spread. Could you talk to them about moving toward suburbs rather than taking more room from us?”

Mrs. Onion sighs. “We have tried to talk to them. They were so sweet when they we younger, but now that they’re older and stronger we can barely get near them. We may end up moving near our children up on the north side.”

They continue to talk as the sisters notice a group of Lettuce watching them and whispering. Cherry looks nervous and says to Roma, “Do they look familiar to you?”

Roma answers, “How would I know? All the Lettuces look the same to me.” As she finishes speaking, the Head Lettuce says, “That’s them. I know it is. They snuck into the party at the Mushrooms, pretending to be veggies. Then they went to all their fruit friends and told stories about us.”

The Lettuce spread out and start moving toward the Tomatoes. The girls see them and run for the gate. The Lettuce is right behind when the gate opens. A Pineapple is standing in the opening, holding a hot vinaigrette.

The lettuce backs off, not wanting to wilt.

The girls run out the gate. The Pineapple glares at them. “Your mother sent me out for you. You’re lucky I got there when I did. You’ll be spending some time in the bed thinking about your behavior when we get back.”


There Are How Many Types of Toothpaste??

Generally speaking, my husband does the grocery shopping and I do birthday/holiday/special event shopping.  It works out well since I’m an impulse shopper when I grocery shop and much more disciplined in other types of stores. I know it’s weird. However, for a variety of reasons, I have been forced to do some grocery shopping for my mother in the recent past. I am ready to retreat back to the cheese.

My mother told me that she needed some toothpaste. I asked what kind. She said she didn’t care. How hard could it be – I bought ours once in a while. Focused shopping for picking up “our” toothpaste did not prepare me for the full shelf of options I confronted. I do watch some TV so I knew that there was whitening toothpaste and freshening toothpaste, however, I did not understand the mathematical implications of it. Once you understand that toothpastes aim to be anti-cavity, anti-gingivitis, anti-plaque, anti-tartar, for sensitive teeth (those going through a painful break-up with your gums maybe?), breath freshening, and whitening and/or some combination of these, you start to get the idea. Additionally, there are special types with baking soda, peroxide, and mouthwash in them. There are also various strengths of whitening (we probably wouldn’t need that if Starbucks didn’t exist). Of course there are also multiple brands with multiple goals, and multiple brands which specialize in specific goals. After reading labels and comparing benefits (prices are surprisingly similar across all options), I finally came to a decision. I bought “our” toothpaste for my mother. Impulse shopping is dead in the toothpaste department.

Next she wanted “TV dinners”. The rest of the world is now calling this food frozen dinners, and there are two rows of freezers holding them. We don’t eat frozen food except vegetables and ice cream, so there was no “our” type. I’m not sure if Swanson exists anymore, but it certainly has generated an amazing array of spawn. There are “regular”, low-carb, low-fat, gluten-free sections. You can get meals, entrees alone, or rice bowls. You can get spicy or various types of seasoned entrees. You can get “individual”, regular, or “hardy” portions. There are at least ten different brands (although I suspect most of them are owned by two or three large conglomerates like all other food).  You can bake, microwave or steam (which is also done in the microwave). You can get chicken, turkey, beef, pasta, shrimp, or fish. I go back and forth, back and forth. Ten minutes later, I have made a few selections.

On to dairy. I know what type of milk she drinks (between no-fat, 1/2%, 1%, 2%, and regular, lactose-free, soy, almond, and whatever else I avoided looking at). Yogurt was another issue. I really haven’t bought any since I was pregnant and was totally unprepared. Greek or barbarian? (I have no idea what non-Greek yogurt is called.) No fat, low fat, full fat? Chunks of fruit or blended? Then I looked further down the line – apple pie, chocolate eclair, Boston creme pie, espresso. Wherever it started, yogurt has made its complete transformation to being an American food – you can buy it in a form that is in no way related to the way it was originally made or tasted. I took a deep breath, bought 0% fat Greek yogurt in berry flavors, and hoped for the best. I also bought coconut for myself (they didn’t have that flavor when I was pregnant) – it was yummy.

OK – 1/2 hour in and I’ve only checked off four things. This is not optimal, as Bucky Katt (Darby Conley’s extremely perceptive cartoon feline) would say. Oh good, I see the next few things are in produce. I just need to decide between organic and “regular”. I had not realized how negative the word ‘regular’ had become in food until this trip. Things are going well until I get to the lettuce. I refuse to buy iceberg lettuce. Mixed with other greens, I really like the crunchiness, but it doesn’t have any flavor to me. So I decide to go to the lettuce section (I didn’t realize there was a lettuce section before this trip). There was romaine, red leaf, green leaf, locally grown (on some corporate farm, no doubt) red and green, and living (it came in a plastic clamshell and you could extend its life by watering the base). I’m sure there were some others, but my brain stopped processing. I picked something that looked fresh and escaped.

I now understand why they are called ‘super’ markets. I also understand why my husband finds a food we like and sticks with it. I spent an hour shopping for ten items. I hope my mother likes them.