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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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Scary Broccoli

Scary Broccoli

When our daughter, Leah, was in the second grade, she announced that she wanted to dress up as broccoli for Halloween. Leah sometimes marched to the beat of a different drummer as a child, so I asked if we had heard her right.

Me: ‘You want to go as a what’’
Leah: ‘Broccoli.’
Me: Broccoli’ The green vegetable that looks like a tree! You want to go as a vegetable?
Leah: Yes.
Me: ‘Ah’ okay’ that’s different. And creative, too. But don’t you want to go as something scary’’
Leah: Broccoli is scary.

Now you’re probably wondering why my daughter would find broccoli not just distasteful, as one of our former Presidents did, but downright scary. So here’s the backstory:

Several months earlier, I was making a chicken and vegetable stir fry for our family dinner. Stir fries have long been one of my ‘go to’ meals because they are low in fat, and the variety of colors, textures, and flavors present well. Served over pasta or rice, it is generally a crowd pleaser. As my husband, son, and I started to dig into our meals, I noticed Leah staring intently at her plate and moving some of the food around with her fork.

Me: Is something wrong, love’
Leah (looking up aghast): There are bugs in my food!
Me: Nonsense. That’s just some dried thyme or basil.
Leah: They’re moving!
Me: No, that’s just the spices floating in the sauce.
Son: Wait. I have bugs too! (Having taken several bites already, son runs to the bathroom to eject what he had eaten.)
Husband (staring at his plate): Oh, my God! There are bugs in this dish!

Needless to say, dinner went into the garbage that night. I later read that broccoli can frequently be infested with insects such as aphids, spider mites, and broccoli worms. You have to pull apart and steam the florets to find them. Since the purpose of a stir fry keeps is to keep the vegetables somewhat crisp, not all those buggers died in the process and were parading around on our food. My lame attempt to point out that some cultures eat bugs for protein did not seem to resonate.

So back to Halloween. Turning Leah into a stalk of broccoli turned out to be fairly simple. We bought her a jade green top and tights, then tied some real broccoli crowns onto a straw hat. We were proud of our ingenuity, and Leah seemed pleased with the result. Later that evening, we were eager to hear how the costume parade at school went.

Seated on the couch in a slump, Leah folded her arms and stuck out her lower lip, pouting. ‘What’s wrong, Leah’ Didn’t they like your costume? ’We were puzzled. ‘Yes, the teachers thought it was cute,’ she answered in a huff ‘So, what’s wrong’’ We wondered if the other kids might have teased her for being a cruciferous vegetable. ‘Nobody guessed that I was a scary broccoli. They thought I was a leprechaun!’

Today my children have only a vague recollection of what they wore for Halloween each year. But they don’t let me forget that I scarred them for life the night I served them bugs for dinner.

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