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31 May 2012

A Book I Wish I’d Written – and It’s about Vegetables!

Spotted in Foyle’s the other week and an irresistible impulse buy: How Carrots Won the Trojan War by Rebecca Rupp. I opened it at random, found a chapter entitled ‘In Which Celery Contributes to Casanova’s Conquests’ and parted with my money without further ado.

It’s a fascinating and at times hilarious look at the development, mythology, social status and more of 20 vegetables (or perhaps 15 vegetables and 5 fruits if you are going to be picky about it). And it is full of stuff that you have never thought about but that will enrich your life beyond measure. Did you know, for example, that the Mr Potato Head toy (familiar to me only from the Toy Story films) was originally marketed as ‘an assortment of plastic features – eyes, nose, mouth, ears and a wardrobe of silly little hats – intended to be jabbed into a real potato’? The industry buzz (in the frugal 1940s) was that the public would disapprove of this frivolous waste of perfectly good food. How wrong can you be?

Or that, despite all the muscle-building publicity that Popeye gave to spinach, he’d have been better off with a plate of spaghetti? What spinach is really hot on is Vitamin A, good for night vision, so ‘Popeye the Sailorman would have had an edge as a night pilot but [spinach] is not much as a pick-me-up prior to a dockside brawl’.

Finally, here‘s a sentence that I defy you to work into a conversation: ‘Surprisingly, Thomas Jefferson, a man obsessed with size, seems never to have measured a pumpkin.’

Rebecca Rupp, I don’t know who you are, but I thank you.

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