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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Brussels Sprouts Incident of 1972 OR How My Mother Found Out Via the Vacuum Cleaner Method

It was 1972.  I'm guessing at the year but it was definitely thereabouts.  My mother believed in 'Thou shall eat of the vegetables,' and 'Thou shall cleaneth of the plate.'  My mother also mentioned starving children in China.  Repeatedly.  (I think it was China.)  (HIM has mentioned that his mother, my MIL of whom I'm not supposed to blog about except in a glowing positive manner, also used the same phrase and HIM outdid me by responding thusly to her, "Then give it them."  I'm sorry I didn't think of that.  Really I am, but it was probably for the best because I don't think my mother or father would have appreciated the humor in it.)  This was also the year that my father scared the crap out of me by letting us watch a really bad 'B' movie on TV.  (See 'I have Pinpointed How I Became Warped Or It Was All My Father's Fault' from April.)  Truly it was a year of vivid personal memories.

My mother served us...da da dahhhhhh...Brussels sprouts.

I'm not sure who originally decided that Brussels sprouts was a good thing to eat.  I recollect that Ma used to serve it with butter on top because I suspect she knew that no one but a person who had just wandered out of the Gobi Desert after 30 days of being lost would ever voluntarily eat unadorned Brussels sprouts.  (Hey, melted butter almost makes anything taste better but I'm thinking that melted cheese in a deep, gooey, I-can-drown-in-it-layer would have been the way to go.)

So now I felt compelled, as I often do when I'm blogging, to look up Brussels sprouts in my BIG dictionary.  (This is the dictionary I can use as a lethal weapon if I was so disposed.)  Here we go for posterity and because I think it's funny:
Brussels Sprout n., often cap B 1: any of the edible small green heads resembling diminutive cabbages and borne in the lower axils of the stem of a plant (Brassica oleracea gemmifera) closely related to the cabbage and cauliflower 2: the plant that bears brussels sprouts - usu. used in pl.
Isn't blue a nice color to describe Brussels sprout?  Wait, I guess it should be green:
Brussels Sprout n., often cap B 1: any of the edible small green heads resembling diminutive cabbages and borne in the lower axils of the stem of a plant (Brassica oleracea gemmifera) closely related to the cabbage and cauliflower 2: the plant that bears brussels sprouts - usu. used in pl.

There.  All official like.  Who decided that cabbage and cauliflower were good, much less a closely related plant to them?  What was wrong with those people?  (I bet they never had a hot fudge sundae with nuts sprinkled on top.)  Now we'll discuss the problems I had as a child with the consumption with said Brussels sprouts.

First of all, it didn't look right.  In abject demonstration I will show you a photograph:

The alleged Brussels sprouts - I think they look like little aliens
OMFG, I've gone off on yet another tangent. 
If you stare at it you can see the little aliens waiting for their moment.  Clear as day.
See, definitely little alien cabbage monsters waiting to suck our blood and kidnap our women.  Or something like that.  Anyway, anyone can see that Brussels sprouts are not the most appetizing looking.  Furthermore, here's the plant they came from:
I mean, if I was wandering around in the wilderness, starving for something, I don't think I would look at this plant and say, "Oh great balls of fire, look appetizing morsels to stick in my mouth and alleviate my raging pangs of hunger."  (I think it looks like a plant with a case of testicularitus.  Come on, guess what that means.)

And hey, if you put them in a bowl, they don't look any better.  Really, do they?
Of course, you could put a lot of cheese on it.  Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of cheese, just about any variety.
A little boiling would take care of those little alien creeps too.  Plus they probably taste like chicken.  (Okay that was baaaaaad, but I'm not taking it out.)

Second and more importantly, it didn't taste good.  It tasted like old tires that had been boiled into obscurity.  (Don't ask how I know this obscure fact; it isn't a pretty story.)  Besides which the Brussels sprouts talked to me.  Seriously, they told me the bottom line.

So you can see as a child I had objections.  But like a poorly paid, cheap suited defense attorney my objections were promptly overruled.  My mother said, "You shall eat of the vegetables.  You shall clean your plate.  You shall not get up from the table until the above two things are accomplished."  And hell yes, I wanted up from the table.  There were things to do.  Lots more interesting things than eating bleeping-blarping-bloinking Brussels sprouts.

Another tangent has occurred.  This time from Cressy, the non-Brussels sprouts eating child of my loins.  (I have never told her there are starving children in China who would love to eat her food.  But I might have intimated it.)  Anyway, she came in, saw the alien Brussels sprouts, felt like she had to draw the following:
I love the blue spots on Fat Woman, er, Alien Mommy's face.  Could be a strange, virulent space disease.  (Man, are we obsessed with aliens and such.)  (And can I interject that if we gave all the invading aliens our Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, they wouldn't want to invade us anymore.  I mean, isn't that a good point?  Somebody call Barrack and let him in the know.)

Back to the Brussels Sprouts and the point of this blog.  It was 1972-ish.  Ma had served Brussels Sprouts.  There were probably other things on the plate, but apparently they weren't so objectionable that I vividly remember them.

The Alleged Incident of 1972...ish.
Well, I don't recall the exact thinking that led to the crapshoot that followed my mother's dictate.  Honestly, I wanted to get away from the dining room table and I DID NOT want to eat the Brussels sprouts.  I think I lingered enough that everyone was either up or distracted.  Cleverly I thought of a plan to contrive my way out of this situation.  (I think I had been watching Jonny Quest and The Wild, Wild West too much.)  I reached out with my fork, got a sprout, and put it into my mouth.  I probably gagged, but subterfuge was necessary.  I sneakily reached for my...paper napkin.  While my mother/father/sister were not looking I spit the sprout out into the napkin.  Then I put it into my lap.

Again I don't remember the formation minutia of my escapade.  There was a convenient lip/shelf under the table.  How I happened to know that it was there or what I intended to use it for, I do not know.  (More realistically, I do not remember what little sneaky thoughts had formed in my eight year old brain.)  But I put the little half chewed Brussels sprout wrapped up in its napkin coffin there.  Whoo-hoo.
What a master manipulator.  How had I learned this from such an early age?  From my parents?  No.  From my sister?  No.  From kids at school?  Maybe.  From Saturday morning cartoons.  Definitely.

I cleared my plate and innocently alerted my mother.  I called, "Oh, Mother dear, I have cleaned the plate and politely request that I be allowed to frolic and rampage about my sister and the general neighborhood at large.  I will pluck hapless crawdaddies from the stream across the street and gleefully chase the neighbor's child with them."  (I didn't really say that but it was categorically understood by myself at the time.)  Ma nodded at me and I was allowed to leave the table without chastisement.

Undoubtedly, just out of parental viewing range there was a victory dance.
And life went on.  Apparently for some time.

Until my mother was vacuuming around and under the dining room table.

One would understand that as an 8 year master manipulator I had made a critical error in judgement.  I didn't go back at a secure time to remove the evidence.  I'm not sure what I thought would happen to the Brussels sprouts in their little decomposing napkin cocoons.  Maybe I thought aliens would come and take them away.  But they didn't.  Ma knocked the table with the vacuum cleaner and down came a slew of small tissue enclosed desicated Brussels sprouts.
I wish I could have seen the expression of comprehension on my mother's face when she figured it out.  (Probably better that I hadn't.)  I don't remember what happened after that.  It might have involved being spanked or being forced to eat a fresh batch of Brussels sprouts.  But I do know that it was a long, long time before I got left alone at the dining room table again.

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