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I was walking through the produce section of my neighborhood grocery store feeling that delectable combination of smugness and virtue. Was I not overhauling my eating regimen, pulling exotic recipes from long neglected tomes, washing out vegetable drawers in the refrigerator, laying in stocks of long braided garlic and hanging fragrant bunches of  herbs from a nail?

Yes, I reflected with satisfaction as I delicately pinched a particularly plump tomato, I was changing my ways, taking to the high road of health, eschewing (which is like chewing but without teeth) the bloodier fare I had so longed embraced, and I was turning my affectionate eye upon the leafier members of nature; to whit, I had determined to eat more vegetables whether I liked it or not.

It is thus that I begin my story today, a story that not only imparts the fruits of hard won wisdom but also reveals a long and checkered planetary history that has heretofore lain fallow. (You must be alert from here on in my puns and metaphors take on a decidedly agricultural cast).

The turning point, so to speak, the “Eureka!” of my morning meander, came when a small boy (out of the mouths of babes) turned to his mother and said, “What’s that?” and pointed to a large purple item resembling a bowling pin. “An eggplant,” she replied, hefting a bag of potatoes into her cart. “Does it lay eggs?” the young boy said with wonderment.

It was Paul on the road to Damascus all over again! When my mind stop spinning and my sight returned I was staggered by his deductive reasoning. I reviewed the implications of his innocent observation. Anyone who is at all interested as I am in the study and history of words will see that the road I was taking did not lead to Syria. Etymologically speaking (which is like epistemology but without the irritation) this was an actual ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg’ situation.

Why was a purple vegetable shaped like a bowling pin called an eggplant? Were chickens so enraptured by their flavor they laid more eggs? Was chicken fertilizer used to deepen it purple coloration? Did chickens really lay eggs – or did they secretly grow them behind the henhouse in the dark of the moon?  I reeled!

Being of a philosophical turn of mind, that conundrum led me to other immediate observations and syllabic acrobatics. For instance, was spinach so named because it induced a twirling reaction when placed in the mouths of small children?  Is there a correlation between cheerleaders and rutabagas – or was that Winnebagoes?

Did eating squash lead to the desire to step on ants? Did beans really make you snap? If a Catholic ate Jerusalem artichokes would he convert? Did cantaloupes contribute to the demise of nocturnal flits to Niagara Falls? Were tangerines a contributing cause of reckless driving? What part did asparagus play in the recent rise of Asperger’s Syndrome?

One after the other these alarming and as yet unanswerable questions swirled through my defenseless mind. I mopped my brow and leaned heavily on the shopping cart as my knees began to wobble. No wonder vegetarians were so strong and healthy. They had to be to withstand and vanquish this onslaught of associative thinking.

Needless to say, I exited the store without making any purchases. I had not realized that when they said eating more vegetables would change your lifestyle it should be taken literally. I gave a silent prayer of thanksgiving that I had been saved from taking this rash step and took up the reins. I cracked the whip and shouted “Mushrooms!” to the dogs and we were off!

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