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Vegetable Abuse

Sep 1, 2003
Kimmy Sophia Brown
We have friends who've been educating us about the benefits of organic food. Since we've known them we've bought eggs from their free range chickens. Well, the chickens didn't actually sell them to us directly, we bought them from our friends. But anyway, this week they went out of town and we got to go to their farm to feed their goats and chickens and gather the eggs, too. It was like a scene from Little House on the Prairie. We arrived at the wide, calm spread of their 18th century farmhouse set back from the road -- white house, red roof, black eyed susans running riot under the windows, and rambling roses climbing up the front step pillars.

On the screened-in back porch was a basket and in it were directions of what we were to do. First, go down to the goat paddock and empty the metal buckets of water for the goats and refill them. Set out sections of hay for them on a little platform where they poke their knobby heads through the slats and chomp away.

Goats have eyes like fish, not like seals or dogs. The eyes are spaced wide apart on the sides of their head almost like they have no relationship to each other. Their faces are a little bit bland but they like to be rubbed on the head and they're very sweet.

Next, get a dish of chicken feed to lure the rooster out of the hen house into the pen. The rooster attacks anyone messing with his hens and they're all his, and he's the boss, they're all his paramours -- he's the Emporer of Chickendom. Once he's out of the henhouse we go in and gather the little brown, white and greenish (yes, I said greenish!) eggs from the roosts, change the water and give them more feed.

Then feed the cats. After that, overturn rocks to find worms and feed the turtles in the little pen under the pine trees. I had never seen a turtle eat before. If you put a live worm in front of a turtle they eat it wiggling. Well, the turtle isn't exactly wiggling but the worm is. Fascinating. They also like fresh tomatoes from the garden. I never knew that before either.

So as we did these tasks that mankind has done from the beginning of history, I felt one with farmdom. My straw hat and thin, white cotton shirt were sticking to me from a sheen of sweat generated under Virginia's August sun. The insects throbbed, the tomatoes and cucumbers hung heavy on their vines, the rooster crowed and the goats baah-ed. Wonderful.

A few months ago this same family gave us a huge bundle of homegrown, organic asparagus that they grew. I had never really liked asparagus. It was one of the nose-wrinkling vegetables of my childhood; the kind of dreaded vegetable that my parents forced me to eat, sometimes making me sit at the table all Sunday afternoon, biting small, fibrous amounts, chewing with distaste, spitting into my hand and running into the bathroom to flush it away.

Anyway, I took home these rugged stalks and steamed them the way my friend suggested. A little squeeze of lemon juice and butter, and wow, what a delicious journey into the health benefits of green vegetables. Green vegetables have so many health benefits. Everyone says so. I'm sure some day I'll agree too. Why doesn't mint chocolate chip ice cream have health benefits - it's green. But I digress.

One day, some weeks later, Gracie and I saw some tall, thin cans of Green Giant Asparagus at the grocery store. The picture showed dark green, handsome stalks on the label. I was sure they would be as wonderful as the ones from my friend's garden. So we opened a can to serve with dinner and I recoiled in horror. Who stole the asparagus and put what might be called sticks of flacid goo, a shade of green I've seen sticking to the underside of docks at the lake, in their stead? Dr. Seuss's "Bartholomew and the Ooblick", green.

I thought, surely there must be some mistake, and I set about to prepare them as I had their raw cousins; steamed a bit with lemon and butter. Then I sawed off a chunk with a knife and popped it in my mouth, and had the biggest gag reflex of my adult life. Ne'er will a canned asparagi pass my lips again. I swear by Jupiter, that the Green Giant company has committed an act of the deepest, darkest vegetable abuse. The other three cans I bought are going for the Canned Food Drive at Thanksgiving. How un-Christian of me, to pass on these vegetables of darkness to unsuspecting recipients. Maybe I will be smote for this. Unless some old lady uses the cans for weight lifting instead of eating. You never know.

Speaking of inedible foods, I recently saw a use for mayonaisse that I had never heard of before, on a home remedy website. Did you know that if someone has head lice they can soak their head in mayonaisse, put on a shower cap, go to sleep and have cole slaw by morning? No, not really, but them little buggers will die in the mayonaisse. That's almost as bad as dying from eating canned asparagus. Personally, I believe that mayonaisse should be outlawed anyway, but that is my personal preferance. Does the constitution protect freedom of condiments? I don't know if it does or even if it should.

The fact that mayonaisse can kill head lice only backs up my theory that mayonaisse is not a food any more than canned asparagus is. I intend to unearth the conspiracy surrounding these two foods.

The final complicated thought of this whole thing is that this same friend actually makes homemade mayonaisse with her chicken's eggs, and makes homemade whole wheat bread from flour she grinds herself, and grows her own organic tomatoes, and everyone who has tried them sings the praises of her tomato sandwiches to kingdom come, which might mean that homemade mayonaisse might be in the same camp as homegrown asparagus. I mean, maybe it should be allowed to exist. I'm really confused about all this except for one thing I've decided, that if you buy things at the grocery store you're taking a big risk.

Thomas Jefferson wanted America to stay an agrarian nation. Maybe he was on to something. Life, liberty and the pursuit of organic vegetables. Give me asparagus or give me death. Something like that.

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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