I’ve always had a certain fondness for reading, and when I was a very young child there were two books in particular that I was most enamored with. The first was a book called “The Story of Ferdinand”. It was a delightful story about a young, socially maladjusted bull that spent his time smelling flowers and not talking to girls (clearly, from a very young age my mother had a) accepted that I would beat to my own proverbial drum and b) begun questioning my underlying sexual preferences). Ferdinand was a feel-good children’s story that taught kids everywhere the importance of being true to yourself, while leaving out the social ostracization and feelings of intrinsic guilt that actually come with “Following your heart”.
Now while Ferdinand spoke to my inner misfit in a way no other medium would until Motion City Soundtrack came along, my second favorite book instead spoke to my inner craftiness and deceit. “Tops and Bottoms” (Again, c’mon mom – I’m glad you were so ready to be accepting “Just in case”, but let’s take it easy on the childhood innuendo) was an unfortunately named tale about an otter and a bear – *ahem* – I mean, about a hare and a bear. This is your prototypical trickster’s tale in which the crafty hare uses his wit and cunning to overcome the lazy, slovenly bear by swindling him out of his undeserved wealth. Hare, having recently lost his land and fortune to a gamble gone awry with a tortoise (seriously), makes an offer to Bear – “I will work your fields for you! I’ll do all that nasty, manual labor that a big, burly…handsome… – *ahem*, sorry – that a bear of your import and magnitude shouldn’t have to worry about. So, you just take it easy big guy (*Gentle kiss on forehead*) and leave it to me. But hey – I do want one teensy, tiny thing. So, you know how I’m doing literally all the work needed to grow all this food? Yeah, you know with the hoeing and such? Yup, the watering too, that’s right! Good job! So smart. Well, I’m sure a reasonable fellow like you would agree that I deserve SOMETHING for all of this effort, right? Hey, hey – calm down. Nothing too drastic. All I want is the “Bottoms” of all these lovely vegetables I’m growing. Yeah, like the lower half of them. You get to keep the “Tops”. The upper halves. Do we have a deal? Or are you just another swindling tortoise? We do? Great! You won’t be sorry!”
Reptile prejudice notwithstanding, Hare then goes and strategically grows a plethora of root vegetables – carrots, radishes etc. Thus, when it’s time to give Bear his half, all he gets is the leafy stems that constitute the “Tops” of these vegetables. When Bear gets angry and demands that Hare replant the crop and *this time* give Bear the bottoms, Hare complies….by switching to growing celery, lettuce, and broccoli and giving Bear all the nasty roots that now constitute the “Bottoms”. Now, Bear lacked mental stimulation as a child, and was thus pretty slow in the cerebral cortex – so this continues for a while. But long story short, Hare got to use his wiles to get ahead, Bear learned a critical lesson in the importance of hard work and early childhood brain development, and I got to stand back, develop a burgeoning appreciation for folk lore, and cultivate an innate craftiness that would continue to serve me in later corporate life.
Now, we’re going to gently lay this anecdote down for a minute (*Covers tenderly with blanket of nostalgia*) and come back to it later. For now, all you need to keep in mind is the anger and confusion that can arise due to a fundamental misunderstanding of which parts of a vegetable are best to eat.
For those of you who are joining me from my prior blog (landonacknowledgeme.com), you already have at least a working understanding of who my friend Landon is. For those of you that are new here, let me provide a brief overview. Landon is a 27-year-old man from small-town Wisconsin. He’s the height of either a very large Munchkin, or a very small backup point guard (depending on your perspective). He has the unbridled energy and enthusiasm of an adult with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD, and the emotional sensitivity of a diabetic’s dead, numb feet. He has offended every co-worker or employee I’ve ever had, has forced me to spend multiple evenings picking him up off the ground after periods of unmitigated overconsumption, and gave away his dog, Velvet, with whom I had developed a particularly profound rapport. Yet somehow, he remains my best friend.
What’s of more importance for this story, however, is his disregard for the world’s green, leafy things. Having grown up on a steady diet of navy-bred parental guidance, red meat, and the annual neighborhood bull testicle fry (yes, Wisconsin is a real place), vegetables never registered with him very well. As funny as it is to see him petulantly pick pieces of broccoli out of a perfectly fine omelet (“that they went and ruined with this garbage”), there is truly an underlying and fundamental layer of sadness to this that becomes harder to look past with each passing year. It’s kind of like that one friend who still reminisces about the Senior year state football championship despite now being 36 and unemployed – after a while, it just stops being cute.
Despite these (not even nearly comprehensive list of) shortcomings, however, Landon has managed to find himself a girlfriend (*Flips through Hinge despondently*). Her name is Michelle, and she has a much better working understanding of produce than Landon. And as her other interests include empathy, occasionally sitting still, and keeping her pets, they ultimately balance each other out very nicely.
Now having moved in together a number of months ago, they found themselves one evening preparing dinner together at home (in all of its domestic comfort and bliss). And Michelle, needing to step away for a few moments, asked Landon to “Cut off the ends of the asparagus” so they could put them in the oven to cook.
Okay. Pause. Do you see where this is going?
Don’t get me wrong. I have no suspicions that Michelle is a small, crafty, tortoise-racist in disguise. I think she was legitimately hungry, and as disappointed in what was about to happen as I was to hear about it after the fact. In comparison however, Landon’s small-town Wisconsin education clearly shared a common curriculum with Bear’s under-intellectually stimulating childhood. For Landon ultimately interpreted “The Ends” as the upper, leafy part of the asparagus. Or as a normal human would describe it – the best part. And he simply lopped it off. Lopped it off and chucked it in the garbage can, like a piece of moldy cheese or a fragment of Theon Greyjoy’s genitalia (Game of Thrones spoilers, sorry). And as you can imagine, this did not go over particularly well.
In Landon’s defense, we are all ignorant of certain things. I, for example, am still not entirely sure how magnets work. And to be fair, he was very apologetic after bearing the wrath of a hungry girlfriend. But let this be a lesson to all: Ignorance is easily exploitable, it is embarrassing, it is the literal lesson to a folktale, and an easy avenue to make your socially awkward friend blog about you to the world at large.
And perhaps most of all, it is a surefire way to never be allowed to help with the cooking ever again.
Has Landon learned the right way to cook asparagus yet? Probably not (in fact, recent interactions suggest that he is still prone to mistake it with green beans). But for better or worse, you have to accept your dumb friends as they are and take solace in the fact that at least some shortcomings come with some funny blog fodder.