Tom versus the pepper

It’s the season of bounty from our summer gardens, and if one more neighbor offers me a free peck of cucumbers, I’ll smile pleasantly, say “thank you,” and toss the whole lot in the county landfill.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the “generosity” of the contribution, though I suspect their motives are more related to retaining a small amount of space in their kitchens for things other than cucumbers, such as refrigerators, dishwashers and a narrow walkway with enough room for the film crew from “Hoarders”.

It’s more that I don’t understand the whole point of cucumbers.

As a food, they don’t seem to have very many uses. If it weren’t for pickles – and this rather tenuous connection to necessity – they’d be as obscure and pointless as Asian vegetables like nira grass, lo bok and the yummy-sounding bitter melon.

Most of the recipes I found online involve dropping the cucumber into some type of salad, shaved as thin as possible to minimize its taste. The closest I could find to something other than a salad was the Salmon and Cuke Mini Smørrebrød, a Danish concoction that uses a type of matter called “gravlax” to combine the glories of Scandinavian cuisine and the phallic fruit known to botanists as cucumis sativus (Latin for “that shit”).

I suppose you could bake, roast, boil, microwave, sauté, grill, stuff or broil the warty schlong and possibly come up with something edible. If not, at least it will have been destroyed.

My rage against the existence of the cucumber has unfortunately gotten me off-topic from what I meant to write about today. Such, I guess, are the wages of hatred.

My wife did accept a small donation of cukes along with a few other vegetables from a friend’s garden, and they sit now next to our sink. I’m not sure if we’re continuing the ripening process by leaving them there, or if we simply hope they rot quickly so we can toss them into the compost heap.

Beth does enjoy simple cucumber sandwiches, an effete treat enjoyed primarily by British nobility. I ate these once, dragged to “high tea” at Hong Kong’s posh Peninsula Hotel by a co-worker during a business trip. I didn’t really want them, but I didn’t want to upset the Communist Chinese. Beth can sometimes be almost as insistent as a totalitarian regime, but at least she won’t initiate a Cultural Revolution or Great Leap Forward if I politely refuse.

Anyway, back to the other vegetables currently on our kitchen counter. One of these is a cayenne pepper, a long, green, wrinkled veggie used primarily as a spice. It is considered a “hot pepper,” generally only edible in the smallest of quantities by the heartiest of individuals. On the Scoville scale, which measures the amount of the chemical capsaicin present in a chili pepper, the lowly jalapeno measures about 8,000 Scovilles. The cayenne, by contrast, measures 65,000 Scovilles.

As it turns out, one of our cats also thinks we have too many surplus and largely inedible foods on our counter but, unlike me, he has the temerity to do something about it. Saturday night, he launched a full-scale frontal assault on the cayenne.

Only he thought it was a snake.

Tom begins his attack on the fearsome vegetable

The rest of the family was enjoying a quiet evening in front of the TV when we suddenly heard a scuffle coming from the kitchen. There was a great thud on the floor, and we knew immediately that our muscular, aggressive tabby named Tom must have fallen to the ground. He had been pawing at the pepper from an arm’s-length distance, and had snagged a corner with his claw, causing the pepper to move. He interpreted this to be a counter-attack by the snake, and skedaddled himself away as quickly as possible.

The three of us intervened immediately, not to rescue Tom from his situation, but to be entertained by his antics. Tom spent about the first year of his life in the wild before we adopted him, and we imagined he’d encountered all kinds of snakes and other wildlife that he regarded as food. He was reverting back to his kittenhood, interested in a tasty if venomous snack.

Within moments, Tom was back on the counter, and back on the offensive. He continued his strategy of keeping his distance, using his greater reach to his advantage, much like a boxer softening up an opponent who had no arms. He jabbed. He prodded. He poked. He feinted. The snake/pepper was obviously tiring, but he had no manager to throw in the towel.

Finally, Tom landed a series of blows that did some serious damage. The veggie was deeply wounded in the midsection, tottering on the edge of the counter. Tom stood victorious over his victim, wanting to finish the match by wolfing him down, but too put-off by the scent of capsaicin to consume the now-defeated rival.

The pepper lies mortally wounded

It’s not quite the iconic photo of a young Cassius Clay dancing in triumph over the unconscious form of Sonny Liston, but Tom had achieved his victory, and was proud of his achievement.

Now if I can only get him to work on those cucumbers.

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3 Responses to “Tom versus the pepper”

  1. Bill Says:

    Hilarious. Much like out young female and her encounter with a real, live potted catnip planter. Until this moment, she thought that catnip just came out of a crinkly-sounding pouch. The planter held a green, bushy bunch of plants, and when she first saw them her tail expanded to roughly the size of a car muffler. She hissed and batted at it; eventually knocking it to the floor from the counter. She gave three creditable sneezes, meowed twice, and stalked across the counter to jump over to the small table beside it. She looked up at us and gave us a “there, I killed it!” look.

  2. Paul Dixon Says:

    Congratulations, Tom. You are brave, yet prudent.

  3. ashleyjillian Says:

    gravlax is really good!

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