Poisson d’Avril

It began in France, they say, the tradition of calling the first of April “April Fool’s Day.” Something to do with the old Julian calendar (that started the year on April 1), perhaps, a day to play practical jokes on those a bit slow to catch on. The French call it poisson d’avril, April fish, as do the Italians, pesce d’aprile. Slap a dead fish on your buddy’s back: like calling him dumb as a post.

Well, this year, as it happens, Easter once again falls on a Sunday. And it’s too early in the season for football, so what are families going to do to pass the time while they wait for the turkey or the leg of lamb to come out of the oven? May I suggest a parlor game?

Let’s consider the many ways we mistreat our food, shall we? Cruelty to vegetables, for starters.

Pity the parsnip. Artificially germinated, forced to sprout in a furrow, nurtured (if you can call it that) in a bed of manure, raised with indifference, virtually ignored until it reaches market weight. Then it’s thoughtlessly deracinated, mechanically decapitated, mercilessly skinned, and, in a final act of stultifying callousness, boiled alive.

Fruit and veg of other species fare no better. Corn is stripped from its parental cob. Parsley is hacked to death. Spinach is chopped and creamed, potatoes routinely whipped, pumpkins eviscerated, grain thrashed and flailed. Who’s there to coddle and console a carrot? Provide foster-care for an orphaned banana? Instead, there’s jubilation when cherries are doused in alcohol and set afire.

Think about this: by “harvesting” a string bean, we’re kidnapping the plant’s children. What does it do to our humanity, when, three times a day, we kill vegetables just to feed our voracious animal appetites?

Cruelty to vegetables ought to be a serious concern, but it’s hidden from view. Farming and gardening appear to be so natural, and questioning “nature’s way” isn’t politically correct. But lower taxes on farmland means higher taxes for the rest of our property. Plants require a lot of water, and water’s not cheap.

Look it up: I’ll bet farmers use more than their share of sunlight, too.