The Bread of Kings by Teresa Lust

Fake Pies and Pig Thighs by Rachel Komich

An Essay in Which Pam Greer Oozes Out of Her Clothes by Richard LeBlond

On Pierogi(s) by Mark Lewandowski

Vegetexting by Jennifer Bal

The Benefits of Eating Too Much in the Desert by E. M. Eastick

A Question of Taste by Meredith Escudier

The Beauty of Pizza by Austin Rogers

Marmalade: The Melomeli of Modern America by Michael Pennell

Three Elizabeths, One George, Hot Cross Buns, and Hampstead Heath by Paula Panich

Duck by Eileen Shields

Food for Thought by Kathryn Jenkins

Playing Mass by Catherine Scherer

My Big Fat Orthodox Thanksgiving by Ruth Carmel

The Astrophysics of a Sandwich by Raychelle Heath

Tantric Chicken by Mara A. Cohen Marks

Full by Kelly Ferguson

Monkey Eve by Carolyn Phillips

Capon by Natasha Sajé

The Paella Perplex by Jeannette Ferrary

The Right to Eat by JT Torres

This Isn't Supposed to Happen in the Morning by Heather Hartley

Recipe for Winter by Khristopher Flack

Step One by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Flour Fool Meets Great Poet and Pie Instructor by Amy Halloran

Everett by Jason Bell

The Intrigue of Aaron Barthel by Kristy Leissle

Personal Sugar Defense Kit by Sari M. Boren

Kitchen Tirade by Eric LeMay

Eat Dessert First by Iris Graville

Parsley by Natasha Sajé

American Zen Breakfast by Dick Allen

This May Make You [Sic] by Paul Graham

Prisoner's Thai Noodles by Byron Case

Lavender Fields by Susan Goodwin

Ménage à Fongo by Kathryn Miles

All That She Could Make with Flour by Katherine Jameison

Weasel by John Gutekanst

Into the Deep Freeze by Jason Anthony

Defining Gluten by Ann Lightcap Bruno

The Text(ure) of Pleasure by Tara Deal

On the Perils of Food-Buying in a Foreign Land by Tony Eprile


by Jennifer Bal

August 2015    

After I texted the picture I knew it was a mistake. I’m not on Facebook or Twitter. I don’t take selfies or blog. I’d never sent this woman a picture, in fact I’d only texted her a few times. I had this moment of impulse. She had never heard of romanesco.

It was a weird thing to do, but those strange green fractal florets that so perfectly spiral, she had to see it. It’s kin to cauliflower, but in another social class. When I saw her last, I’d told her how wonderful it was, so beautiful that you almost didn’t even want to eat it, like the sculpture out of some artist’s mind. Oh, but when you did eat it, it was a light buttery dream. Vegetable royalty.

I’d never heard of romanesco either until I moved to Wisconsin. I came from Phoenix where salsa is a vegetable. Someone told me to get a community farm share where I could get weekly vegetable boxes from a local farm. It sounded good to me. I got such strange things in my box each week that I had never seen nor heard of before kohlrabi, celeriac, bitter melon. I learned to cook with them. It was fun. It was exciting, inspiring and delicious. But now, five years later, I guess the thrill was fading. I was no longer happy seeing a box filled with bok choy, rutabagas, and parsnips. Maybe there was a reason I’d never heard of them. The box, in all its healthy glory had become tedious, but I still marveled over the romanesco. I wanted someone else to get excited about trying something new.

As the romanesco steamed, I fretted over the picture. Why did I do that? I was home alone. I was bored. She probably opened the picture and thought, wtf? I tried to put it out of my mind. I took the delicata squash out of the oven. It would be a sweet delicious counterpart to the romanesco. I checked my phone. Nothing.

My mouth salivated as I thought about the rich, buttery taste of the romanesco. I turned off the burner and used tongs to remove it from the pan. I put it into a bowl where I would cut off the florets. That’s when I noticed something yellow and pale and tubular floating in the water. I looked closer. It was a worm.

It looked like a mealworm, waxy, sectioned body, sad little protrusions for legs with whisker stubble at the ends, the head. I don’t know what bothered me more, not knowing that it was in there, thinking about it boiling alive, or that I was no longer hungry.

I told myself it wasn’t a big deal. I’d found worms before in my sweet corn. Some people eat worms for protein. It wouldn’t hurt anything. But I couldn’t eat the romanesco. I mostly stared at it while my husband and son ate and raved about it. The florets looked mushy and overcooked, not as vibrant green. I thought about the bloated worm, still floating in the pan on the stove. It seemed like a karmic omen. This is why my mother always told me not to brag. Was I doing that when I sent the text? Or was I simply sharing? Some time later, my friend texted me back saying how pretty the romanesco was, how it looked like a Christmas ornament. She was right. I thought about texting her back, telling her about the worm. About how much it grossed me out. Instead, I sent back a smiley face and went to bed.

Since then I’ve had the urge to text vegetable pictures. It’s been hard, but I’ve fought off the feelings. I think its best for everyone if I keep these private moments to myself.

Jennifer Bal recently gave up veggie boxes and is at work on a novel about artistry and rebellion through time in Anatolia. Her writing has appeared in Cooweescoowee, The Istanbul Literary Review, and Bosphorus Art Project Quarterly, where she was also an editor. She lives in Madison, WI.


Photo used under Creative Commons.