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The Curse of Celery

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The road of good intentions is paved with vegetables.

Part of this road is cobbled with corn kernels, buttery slick and iced with salt. Some stretches are smoothed over with sliced onions and peppers. The occasional uphill tug feels more like a mountain trail because your tires struggle to roll over bumpy potatoes of every shape and size. And once in a great while, the mountain road gets wet. The more you drive over it, the more pulverized the spuds become and soon you are mired in mashed potatoes.

Tonight while digging through the fridge, excavating miscellaneous jars of pickles (why do we have four jars of pickles, each with only two or three toe-sized cukes settled at the bottoms? They were a graphic depiction of what “sleeping with the fishes” means), I spotted the celery. It had gone limp—another vegetable I will have to throw on the compost heap when my husband isn't looking; he hates to waste food.

Every time I'm in the produce section, I pick up a bundle of celery, sure that this week I'm going to actually eat it. I will cut it up, take it work and nibble on it all afternoon. Perhaps I'll take ranch dressing or peanut butter for dipping. What usually happens after the grocery store is that I get home and I put the celery in the fridge. Two weeks later, it's on the compost heap. It’s not that I hide the celery in the fridge so that I forget that it’s in there; it’s that whenever I open the door looking for something to snack on, cutting up celery and chewing on fibrous green limbs is not as appealing as I had thought it might be while I stood in the produce section.

Then there is the Great Tomato Toss-up. (I know that technically a tomato is a fruit, therefore shouldn’t be an ingredient of the road, but let’s admit that most of us consider it a vegetable and move on.) Thanks to cooking shows, cooking magazines, cooking columns and blogs, everyone (should) knows that you do not put tomatoes in the fridge. Their texture becomes mealy and they take on the flavor of the artificially chilled atmosphere. So armed with this knowledge you must decide how many tomatoes you will eat in about three days. Any longer would require that the tomatoes be placed in the crisper drawer (gasp!). While standing in front of the tomatoes at the grocery store, you must decide which kind (Roma, beef, grape/cherry/plum) and how many you hope to consume in three days or less. Let’s say you decide two Roma tomatoes. You will have salads for one meal the next two days. The first day the tomatoes are home enjoying their high rise view on the counter, when you realize you have to go to lunch with a new client. That night, still bloated from lunch, you forgo the salad, solemnly vowing that you will eat salad the next day. The second day is your cousin’s birthday, so you take her out to lunch. That evening, just as you are reaching for the cutting board to prepare your overdue salad, your child informs you she must have a ladybug costume for the second grade play on insects, which is tomorrow. Leaving the cutting board on the counter next to the tomatoes, you grab your child and wallet and run out the door to the store. Because it is April, costumes are out of season. You will just make the costume yourself. That is how you find yourself covered in a web of hot glue and felt at three in the morning, your stomach growling. So now it is day three. You can either eat these tomatoes while standing over the sink, juice running down your chin, or you can put them in the fridge and risk their ugly transformation and possible compost doom.

This is the scenario I find myself in every time I buy tomatoes.

One last vegetable that frequently decorates the compost pile due to my lack of follow-through (despite my good intentions) is the bag of baby carrots. By the time I remember I have them, they’ve either been frozen from being shoved to the back of the fridge, or have all dried out and look like dismembered Oompa Loompa digits. Who wants to snack on something that looks like it came from Willy Wonka’s jungle workforce? I would rather munch on something Willy Wonka made himself. Maybe I could try dipping my carrots in chocolate or vanilla sauce…

So today when I visit my local grocer, I will undoubtedly think that Today is the Day that I Will Eat More Fresh Vegetables and fill my cart with next year’s garden fertilizer. Luckily my failure to follow through on my good intentions does not leave me sleeping with the fishes.

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