Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Forbidden Fruit

My traumatic relationship with vegetables 
had its origin in my early childhood, 
beginning with turnips, parsnips, and beet tops
and continuing on through vegetables A ~ Z.

The clean your plate rule did not help.

An Array of Vegetables

However, one of my great aunts 
had a vegetable she forbade us to eat, 
a vegetable she said was worth its weight in gold.  
I would look at the hard-to-find green ovoid 
and wonder Why?

One summer day Aunt Nan invited me for lunch.
Friends of hers were visiting from New York City,
and guests from NYC usually meant
this curious vegetable would show up 
as a gift for Aunt Nan.

So, dressed in my best, 
I arrived for lunch at her beautifully appointed table
in the dining room overlooking 
the blue Annapolis Basin and Digby Gut.

Digby Gut and the Annapolis Basin

Things progressed well  
until Aunt Nan placed chilled luncheon plates 
in front of her guests and me.
Top points for presentation!
Top points for shock value!

My life flashed before my eyes;
not my life in vegetables,
my life in cows.

Suddenly I was in Robinson's pasture
again, with my younger brother Roy.
Seven and six, 
we loved to cut through that 
pasture between the brook and Robinson's 
to terrify ourselves with their cow, Molly.

We were continually grossed out 
by Molly chewing her cud 
with that great, slimy, tongue
pushing the grass around,
as her lower jaw worked in tireless circles
against her upper.

Cow Chewing Cud
(Not Molly)

Knowing that that grass had been
regurgitated from Molly's
four compartment stomach
gave us a frisson of horror
at the grossness of it all.

(Click the above link if you would like to know more
about cows' stomachs and chewing cud.)

We would sneak closer and closer,
until Molly stopped chewing 
and stared at us with baleful eyes.
Time to beat a hasty retreat!

My Brother Roy and I
Post Molly Days

The summer day I flashed on
was some years past;
before Uncle Cecil had retired, 
before he and Aunt Nan had returned from NYC 
to Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, 
before they had built a home by the beach 
and across the brook from the Robinson place.

Uncle Cecil's and Aunt Nan's House

This day, Molly had a new calf named Daisy,
and Daisy was the cutest thing on four feet.
Roy and I snuck into the pasture with
tufts of grass to feed Daisy
(not realizing that she only drank milk).

Molly did not turn baleful eyes on us.
She charged!

I hightailed it across the pasture
to the edge where it dropped off 
to the cobbled beach below.
Roy followed on pudgy legs.

I lept and landed hard on the rocks.
Roy froze at the edge,
squealing with fear,
as Molly closed in!

"Jump!  Jump!  
She's going to hook you!  
I screamed.

To this day I can see those horns
as Molly tossed her head for Roy!
It was as if she had shoveled him off the edge!
A hair's width from the tips of her horns,
Roy plunged to the rocky beach.

Molly stood at the top of the high bank 
mooing and glaring, 
while we examined our scrapes and blossoming bruises.
I had split open my right leg from ankle to knee,
but a chubbier Roy was in better shape.

We hobbled up the beach,
shakily climbed the steep, rickety stairs 
up the high bank
to the Robinson place,
and slunk past the pasture. 
Molly kept pace with us the whole way.
Daisy never looked so cute again!

The Beach Below Aunt Nan's Home
Looking Toward the Old Robinson Place
The stairs leading up the bank were located
between the big rocks in the green patch in the middle distance.

"You cooked a tongue, a cow's tongue?"
I blurted out, 
looking at Aunt Nan in horror.

Too Scary to Enlarge!

"Yes," she said, 
in a voice as chilly as the plates,
"Beef tongue in aspic."

(Click the above link for a recipe.)

Aunt Nan passed around a plate
overlaid with slices of 
a buttery, light green vegetable
fragrant with lime.

"You may have some avocado."
she said, 
"But only if you absolutely love it.
It's worth its weight in gold."

I passed on the avocado
and forced down the jellied tongue
between bits of potato salad.
Never again!

Years later, while working in Newfoundland
on a fluorspar project,
I chanced on a coupon in a magazine.
I could mail it to California,
and the California Avocado Advisory Board
would send me a pamphlet on avocados,
complete with recipes.
It was an offer too good to pass up.
I would finally get the lowdown 
on this exotic vegetable 
that Aunt Nan used to hoard.

I am telling you:
vegetables are trouble,
even if they are fruit!


Within a year of receiving 
that avocado pamphlet in the mail,
I was living in California,
married to a country and blues singing,
paralyzed, 101st Airborne, Screaming Eagle vet
learning a whole lot about
life, trouble, and avocados.



  1. I have never been a vegetable person (though I drink two glasses of V8 a day to get my neccesaries). UNLESS you count potato as a vegetable (which I do), in which case I love them :)

    1. Absolutely count a potato as a vegetable! It's a vegetable I love! I used to drink V8 when I worked in Newfoundland. Then I had my boss bring me some brewers yeast from Toronto, so I could add it to the V8 juice to get more vitamins. It was disgusting! I had to finish it off because my boss had brought it to me, but I haven't been able to look at V8 juice since! Have a good day!

  2. Beef tongue in aspic -- ewwwww! You should have accepted the avocado slices to help disguise it on the way down!

    1. You're right! I wish I had ~ but then maybe that experience would have totally ruined avocados for me. When I finally worked up the courage to taste one, I really loved it. I hope that you are having a good day!

  3. I know avacadoes are supposed to be good for you, but honestly, they are too greasy and green for me.
    "Too scary to enlarge", you wrote. You should have said at the beginning of your post, "Caution! Gross Cow Tongue Photo Ahead!!"

    1. Hi Kay! I didn't want to spoil the surprise!
      That lunch was truly unforgettable! In future years I watched her prepare the recipe a few times, but I made sure I didn't stay for the meal.

      My Great Aunt Nan was actually a fabulous cook ~ especially of seafood, and I have many of her recipes. She just never got over the Depression and then rationing in WWII.

      Also her father died when she was quite young. Her mother was left with four small girls to raise. So Aunt Nan would cook just about anything. She also dried paper towels to reuse if they weren't dirty.

      It took me a while to appreciate avocado, but now I love them!

      Have a good evening!

  4. Louise....I am continually in awe of your existence each and every post....all this was going on with you and I wasn't there to help!

    Tongue is a rather strange and weird thing to eat. My Mom used to eat it too, but only the canned kind and it was salty so......much more palatable. Now avocadoes are right up my alley....I think I like them because I learned to appreciate them later in life and on my terms... guacamole or sliced with goat cheese.

    Old Robinson Place....exactly where is that in relation to Smith's Cove and Harbour House?

    Is there any chance we the world can salvage the vegetable hysteria that has taken over your life all these years...just a wee bit of luck we can help you? wink wink!


    1. Hi Ron!
      Canned tongue! OMG! Thank God that didn't show up on the tractor train up North. Spam was enough! I wouldn't be surprised if Spam had tongue in it. They love that in Hawaii!

      I like avocados. I never tasted them or Mexican food until I landed in a Taco Bell in Amsterdam which was a couple of months after I got the avocado booklet from the California Avocado Advisory Board. It took a while, but I learned to love them especially in guacamole.

      I think you must be referring to Harbour View House. If you look at the picture of the beach from below Aunt Nan's, Harbour View is on the point in the distance. If you look closely you can see several square shapes that are cottages that used to belong to Harbour View. Over the past four or five decades the cottages were sold off to private owners and just the hotel remains open to the public. Private owners rent out the cabins individually. You can't see the actual hotel in this photo.

      My great grandmother Sara Cossaboom owned Harbour View along with her brother. When her husband died, then her brother pretty much stole her ownership right out from under her. If I'm remembering right, William Cossett was the brother's name. Maybe my sister Barb will come on and correct me if I have something wrong. But she's leaving for the Caribbean Friday ~ so her mind may be elsewhere.

      Also Aunt Nan actually worked cleaning the cabins when she was a girl and they were part of the hotel.

      Our family graveyard is beyond the swimming pool at Harbour View.

      Smith's Cove includes Harbour View point, everything in that beach photo, and extends another half mile or so beyond Aunt Nan's.

      The Old Robinson Place no longer exists. Roy and I were friends with Wayne Robinson who was our age, and his older sister Muriel sometimes looked after us. At some point they were bought out, and much more well-off people built a lovely home there ~ right in what was Molly's pasture. The beach stairs are barely visible now because they have rotted away.

      There is a veggie chance, Ron. I actually bought a turnip yesterday along with a couple of potatoes to try your turnip recipe. But tomorrow is Valentine's Day, then there's Friday Night Date Night, and then we're going to Black Hawk. I won't have to deal with that turnip until Monday at the earliest! But I'm going to do it!

      Have a good evening! The new season of Survivor starts in about 20 minutes! Yippy!


      Small World.....We have a friend, Marilyn Boyle/Jolemore, who purchased one of those cottages many years ago. Marilyn is one of the Bukta Dancers from Don Messer's TV show time in the 1960's. We, through fitness and dancing, met up and visited her the cottage a few times. When I looked at that photo above I just 'knew' that that lawn was in front of her cottage. Her husband Gary who passed away in the mid-2000's is buried in that graveyard, your family graveyard. She showed us his resting place and how beautiful, calm and serene it is.
      We met the owner's of Harbourview and also knew one other cottage owner that used to take my fitness class in Halifax. Seriously, the inter-connectedness of this small planet continually amazes me.
      As I read your statements I had to stop and I say to Jim "Listen to this" now... "Listen to this"!
      The history you have of this place and small history of our visits mesh together for me and help to put so much into perspective.
      We have pictures of swinging golf clubs(my first time ever) on Marilyn's front lawn. I will try to figure out a post for these or maybe Jim will...wouldn't that be cool. Sophie went swimming there in summer 2007 and Marilyn loved her.
      Thanks again for this Louise, I hope this finds you in good spirits and may you always be full of vim and vigour!



      PS...Go Cochrane Go!!!!

    3. The interconnections on this small planet are amazing, Ron!
      I know the feeling of "I just knew..." when you saw the lawn in front of your friend's cottage! That's exactly how I felt when Jim published that photo on your birthday. I "just knew" those were my legs.

      And to think you have been to our family graveyard. It's like a roll call of all the family I have known and loved. My parents are there, and everyone else back through Great Grammie and beyond. I like to sit there and hang out with the ancestors. Aunt Nan and Uncle Cecil are among the many there.

      Yes, do post about your visits to Marilyn's. Maybe you could have Sophie take a walk down memory lane to her swim and remembering the other things that happened there.

      I was sweating bullets that Cochrane would get voted off last night. Or Phillip ~ secret agent man! I think this is going to be a great season!

    4. Maybe you could have Sophie channel previous pets of yours and explore your past. Or maybe she could fall through a wormhole or time travel ~ expand her horizons! Go Sophie!

    5. GREAT do I owe your recompense for this?

      Much lighter note: So sorry to see Franchessqua (poor Philip) booted off last night. I really liked her on the 2 episodes(out 2 shows) she was able to muster. What's with that anyway?

    6. another PS....I don't know why, in the above comment the words "" are high-lighted in blue because I didn't do it...hiccup I guess!

    7. It's not happening on my computer, so maybe it's just your aliens! I liked Franchessqua too, but she just didn't have the relationships built among the Favs! Let's call it even ~ you gave me the turnip idea which is at least five nights away! Have a good one!

  5. Hahaha... o dear, you are so cute! That poor cow -- she really looks like she's begging you to give greens, and her, a chance!

    1. Thanks B&R! Cows and I still have our issues, and I've been chased a number of times. Even though they scare me, I've actually tried to milk one ~ unsuccessfully! My students loved feeding the cows at the Plains Conservation Center just a few miles from where I live. I tried to take them on a field trip there most years. Have a good evening!

  6. Ack...beef tongue...ewwwwww. Experiences like this can end up requiring years of therapy. And even then, you couldn't get rid of the nightmares that are sure to follow you your whole life.

    1. Hi Martha! I actually have cow nightmares to this day, and if a cow shows up in a dream, I know immediately that the dream is going to turn into a nightmare. As long as I can remember, I've had tidal wave nightmares, and sometimes I'm trying to escape up the Robinson stairs from a tidal wave coming up the beach, but my way is blocked by Molly or another cow or several. I made sure I never had to eat tongue at Aunt Nan's again! Have a good evening!

  7. I couldn't have done it. Beef tongue. Almost as bad as 'potted heed', my Scottish Grandmother's favourite meal. (A boiled sheep's head, all parts included). Love your photos and stories!

    1. Hi Francie!
      I did eat it. I was mortified at embarrassing Aunt Nan in front of her NYC friends! I always think of Aunt Nan as "a proper Nova Scotian lady!" I adored her, and she was wonderful to me.

      When she was 76, she led a field trip of scientists and bird watchers from all over down to Brier Island to see the bird migration over the major fly way there. She had bought a pair of slacks and asked me if I thought it was okay for her to wear them. She was ironing them when I ran in. She had never worn any pants in her life! I think I told her it was about time and totally appropriate! I'd have walked over burning coals for her!

      I'm so glad you are enjoying my stories and photos.
      Also, I've had potted head a number of times and haggis! I am basically Scottish!
      Have a good evening!

  8. Tongue! OMG! Meat creeps me out. Tongue is way beyond the creeps! Aaaaah! Beware, Louise. Today I bought the ugliest vegetable I've ever seen. Could a revenge post be far behind?

    1. On Terry! You made me bust out laughing when I read your comment! Tongue is absolutely way beyond the creeps! Oh please do post your ugliest vegetable! I'm always up for a good scare that shakes me up from head to toe! Have a good one!

  9. Belas fotografias...Espectacular....

    1. Oi Fernando!
      Espero que tudo está indo bem em sua parte do mundo.
      Obrigado por deixar um complemento tipo!

  10. Hello Louise,
    This post made me chuckle, thank you... Needless to say I eat both (sorry!!) Avocados a big love of mine if ripened properly. Living in France you get used to seeing 'everything' at the butchers and even supermarkets!! The house of your Uncle and Aunt looks so idyllic.

  11. Hi Ivan!
    I'm glad that you enjoyed this post.
    I wrote it and Vegetable Trauma as a lead in to the post I'm writing on your celery soup ~ the post has a happy ending because the soup was delicious!

    I figured if anyone in my universe ate tongue it would be you! You can eat my share too!

    Everything in American supermarkets is sanitized. I've only seen a tongue two or three times. But you can special order parts.

    I used to get cow or sheep hearts and eyes for the kids in science. Then the district got on a safety kick, and I couldn't have the kids use parts that came through the supermarket. The ones available through the district source were too expensive. Because I had to pay for them myself ~ no expense account for teachers! ~ that was the end of that!

    You must be home by now! I hope your family trip to Paris continued to be awesome!

  12. As Ron indicated Louise, your Aunt Nan's place triggered a lot of memories for us.
    I can't wait to tell our friend Marilyn about this....she will be tickled and probably knows a few people you do. She spends from May till October there. It is one of the nicest places in Nova Scotia with so much history. Her son got married last summer in the little chapel in the woods up cottage road.
    Your post continue to entertain, enlighten and energize me and I am sure others. I just bet last years grade twos were disappointed you weren't there in September!
    But aren't you just LOVIN retirement!! Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours!

  13. Hi Jim! Thanks for your wonderful comment!
    You always inspire me, and you encourage me to keep plugging away!

    I wouldn't be surprised if some of my family and friends knew Marilyn. And we know the chapel well. Mom loved it so much that at her funeral a soloist sang "The Church in the Wildwood!" What a time we had tracking down the musical score and words for that on short notice!

    My sister Bertie has a friend from the United States named Amanda (can't think of her last name right now) who owns a cabin and spends the summers there. She often does a little catering and my nieces have worked for her.

    Our cousin Claire (Lindholm) Ryan and her husband Pat often rent a cabin there. They have two teenagers named Jeffrey and Andrew.

    Then our friends Ray Raymond and Jerry (can't think of Jerry's last name) often rent a summer cabin. Ray is from the Cove and grew up particularly close to Barb (they're the same age). Ray and Jerry got married several years ago overlooking the beach outside one of the cabins. I think Barb was the best "man." And of course their reception was at Harbour View.

    Barb gave the toast which was hilarious, because Grammie always hoped and believed that Barb and Ray would get married. So in the toast Barb teased Jerry by saving that he stole the man of her dreams! I didn't make the wedding. :( But I saw it later on Ray's computer.

    Oh Lord, there's tons more! Ask your friend if she's ever been to Sailabration at the Yacht Club in Digby.

    I used to pick raspberries in Aunt Nan's garden that she would in turn sell to Harbour View ~ but that was a very long time ago. I think all we kids spent a stint in Aunt Nan's garden picking raspberries. She paid us 5 cents a box and then she sold them for 25 cents a box ~ pint boxes! You won't get a pint today for 25 cents!

    Yes, there were a lot of sad second graders, and parents who had been hoping I'd teach their children, and older siblings who passed me little notes during door duty, once the word got out, begging me to not retire so their younger sibs could have me. It was so hard, and I haven't been able to go back yet (still worried I'll burst into tears).

    One of the teachers saw me at Parkway last night, ran over to give me a hug, and asked "When are you coming in?" Soon! I may still cry, but Terry has moved from his position of my never stepping foot in Sunrise again. My passion for teaching and for being secretary of our union was tough on him!

    I am just loving retirement, and just about my first thought every morning is "Oh thank God! I'm retired!"

    I hope that you had a good Valentine's Day. We had fun!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.