January 22, 2003

Vegetable Shop of Horrors

When I think about it... when I see in my mind it's vapid green squishiness lying cold and dead on the plate; when I sense the presence of it deep in my rhinencephalon, the primative brain where memory is mixed with the rancid-buttery burning rubber smell of it ... I feel the old remembered rising wrenching tightness moving up my internal pipes, bringing me to the very edge of emetic crisis, even here today. The sight, smell, the very thought of asparagus used to make my digestive system go into violent reverse peristaltic waves and all was lost.

This asparagus of childhood appeared before me like dead green fingers out of a cold can, some months or years, perhaps decades since having been purportedly being a living creature. I could not be convinced that this vile substance on my plate had ever been anything more than an inorganic evil poison created by children-hating adults on the other side of the Iron Curtain, where at the time, the Evil Ones lived. THEY must be responsible for this. I hated them, and I hated the mind control they exerted over our parents to make them insist that to become or to remain amongst the 'good children' this enemy-emitic must go in, go down and stay down. This of course was not humanly possible, and the enemy thus exerted a hegemonic form of psychic tyranny over adult and child alike. Those were terrible times.

Many years later, having escaped the Gulag of Childhood, I found myself the new owner of twenty acres of sunlight and rich earth. I was enjoying, yes enjoying, cutting our acre of grass for the first time with the push mower in early Spring. There in a flat area that I assumed was a flower bed, a thin pale green and shiny stalk had pushed through the leaf litter, its top faintly adorned with small overlapping artichoke-like leaves toward a frail and tapering tip. It was asparagus. I recognized it from the wanted posters I remembered seeing as a child.

I had learned in my botanizing that this stuff grew wild, and was even stalked by those who also thought many parts of a picnic table were edible. Wild Aspargus was to die for, according to some brainwashed and pitiful souls. Here in my new yard it apparently grew as an act of intention, all the more awful and repugnant, I thought as I mowed up and down, coming closer and closer to the plant with each pass. Alas, I was lured to it like a tongue to a frozen pump handle in winter, and I plucked the awful spear from the ground. It held me in its chlorophyllic trance. I put it in my mouth. What was I doing!?

I came, I saw, I consumed. And it stayed down. Easily. I discovered the difference at that moment between fresh and 'preserved' asparagus. They are two distinctly different creatures, from different planets, I am thinking. Succulent and slightly crunchy, fresh asparagus tasted of summer sun, rich humus and all things green and growing. Such is the way with knowing there is no middle man between your food's life in the soil and your first bite of it fresh from the earth. My children liked fresh green peas early on (another gaggy childhood horror for me) because they browsed the pea-patch, pulling SugarSnaps warm from the trellis and eating them like candy. Had they been forced by ghoulish parents to eat cold dead peas from a metal can, well, I'm starting to get that tightness again, so I guess I'd better say no more about the Vegetables of from the Gulag.

Be sure and see Feste's Ode to a Sprout, (another in the same evil class of vegetable horrors) and thanks to all who weighed in with their veggie tales. Or in one case, a fruit, the "durian" from the other side of the world. It doesn't look like something God wanted us to eat, now does it?

Posted by fred1st at January 22, 2003 07:38 AM | TrackBack

Euell Gibbons is turning 3600 rpm in his grave about now.

Um, he is dead, isn't he?

If not, he probably is now.

Posted by: Jim Calloway (aka JC South) at January 22, 2003 11:00 AM

Hey! Durian is an acquired taste :)

I grew up eating it and it is delicious and full of protein.

One just has to get used to the smell to reach the custardy flesh :)

Posted by: glovefox at January 22, 2003 11:38 AM

Amen. Canned peas are evil. I can't even CONCEIVE of canned asparagus.

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at January 22, 2003 12:40 PM

I grew up believing that asparagus was nasty stringy mush from a can. Now that I am an adult I know the joys of *fresh* vegetables and aparagus -- grilled, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt -- is one of my very favorites.

I don't care for Durian either.

Posted by: Cody at January 22, 2003 01:21 PM

Well done, Fred! This was a terrific epistle on the Asparagus! I have just finished posting my meditation on the Artichoke over at my blog. It was quite fun!

Posted by: Artichoke Heart at January 22, 2003 01:58 PM

Very nice essay. Having grown the stuff in my back yard, I agree that it's heaven. So's sweet corn, fresh from the stalks and quickly boiled.

I gave your essay pride of place on my Web site (I'm collecting what I consider the best writing on the Internet). No prize money; not even a cute little box to put on your page, but another blip of praise from this corner of the blogosphere.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at January 31, 2003 12:24 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?