This is apropos of nothing, but while looking for a broccoli salad recipe on my hard drive I came across this one-page bit of writing I did at some point and I figured I might as well share it. I'll hide it after the jump since it has nothing to do with anything else I write about on this blog.
I was thirteen years old before I knew broccoli was supposed to crunch. Every night for thirteen years my brothers and sisters and I would sit down to a table groaning under the feast my mother had prepared. At one meal she would make pot roast, spaghetti, mashed potatoes, salad, three kinds of beverages, two breads, corn on the cob, beans, dirty rice, and -- inevitably -- the vegetables.
At the time I just thought they were inherently gross, that they were repugnant by nature. You know, like girls. Looking back, though, it wasn’t the legumes, it was the way they were cooked. Surrounded by the extravagance of the rest of the meal they lay back in their dish, poor, tired, limp things, colorless as the blind fish at the bottom of an ocean trench, only with less nutritional value. My only explanation is that my mother also did all the laundry for the seven of us, and somehow she got confused. Follow me on this: Clothes have to be steamed to within an inch of their life to get clean. Clothes are made from cotton. Cotton grows in the ground. Vegetables grow in the ground. Therefore, vegetables must be steamed to within an inch of their life to be good. It makes sense, and is far more charitable than deciding my mother was nuts.
The big revelation came, as I said, when I was thirteen, when I went to a girl’s house for the first time -- Edwina Geautreaux was her name, and a more stuck-up, obnoxious pimple of a girl never graced the halls of Baton Rouge Middle School. I had been pressed at gunpoint into attending Edwina’s little dinner party by my vegetable-loathing mother.
“Go!” she said with that merciless, unyielding Mom-look that literally (and I have the word of my most trusted sibling on this) actually frightened bears. I tried to squirm and fidget my way out of it in the sullen way all teenagers master as their birthright, but she dropped the bomb on me: “It will build character for you to mix with nice people like the Geautreaux’s.”
I HATED building character. It usually meant I was going to end up sweating in the yard until dark, or stuffed into a suit and tie. This was one of the suit and tie kinds of character building excursions, and to make it worse I had to sit with girls and eat while doing it. I didn’t want to meet the kind of character that was getting built, but there was no stopping Mom once she got that look on her face.
So I found myself sitting at a dinner table, surrounded by fifteen other thirteen-year-olds all stuffed into equally uncomfortable clothes. And right there in front of me was this collection of bright green miniature trees. They looked like broccoli, but I had always thought broccoli was gray. And then it crunched!! I was aghast, and faintly uncomfortable the rest of the evening. If my mother, that goddess of the dining room, could go so horribly wrong with vegetables, what else might be amiss with the world? Big changes were in the air, and I didn’t like them.
It was about that time that I first noticed that, at some point when I hadn’t been looking, Edwina Geautreaux had developed breasts, and suddenly limp vegetables were the furthest thing from my mind.