The Veggie Uprising
by Kelly Sauvage Angel
My hips swayed side to side as I diced the tomato for a simple green bean curry.
“Her hair blowing in the breeze. And she can’t see me watching,” crooned Big Head Todd through my laptop’s tinny speakers.
“Wait for it,” I told Botany, our moody calico, as the music built to a crescendo in anticipation of the chorus. “It’s bittersweet, more sweet than bitter, bitter than sweet.” I sang along, pantomiming heartfelt emotion as Botany gazed on.
Catching sight of an errant raisin near the baseboard, Botany rolled her eyes at my serenade, then skittered off, mercilessly batting her plaything of the moment across the floor.
A jangle of keys sounded behind me; Nina had unlocked the front door. “Guess who’s home!”
“You’re early! I’ve just started prepping dinner,” I complained as she planted a wet kiss at the nape of my neck. “Mind tossing me the green beans?”
Being a literal sort, she opened the fridge and whipped the bag of crisp farmer’s market beans toward me. They grazed my elbow, sliding to a stop at the back corner of the range.
The Vidalia onion on the far side of the counter, as if startled by the careless display, rolled itself over the edge and onto the floor, bouncing a time or two before coming to rest against my right foot. When I instinctively kicked it aside, Botany made a snap decision to give up on the raisin, which she had forever lost beneath the fridge, and took possession of the onion as though she were about to make the winning play of the World Cup.
“Hey, come back with that!” I laughed, before tearing after her in a playful chase.
* * *
Nina and I had adopted our vegan lifestyle maybe six months prior, and we both agreed that it suited us well. It all came about after we had watched a slew of food-related documentaries on Netflix over the winter holidays. By the time we got through Vegucated, our consciences had gotten the better of us. We simply could not continue our burger nights and impromptu barbecues, knowing the suffering that the animals we were eating had endured on our behalf.
Beyond our diet, our awakening generated a desire for a more compassionate approach to living, a new-found respect for the lives of others beyond our own. Plus, veggies were more affordable. Not that we intended to let any go to waste, but if we tossed a bulb of kohlrabi, a zucchini or the last beet of the bunch, we weren’t out much.
As I said before, the lifestyle suited us quite well.
* * *
The following Monday night, I stepped out onto the balcony to pluck a few basil leaves for my pasta primavera. I had to admit, I was a bit disheartened to find that all of the herbs were looking more than a little wilted. With the hours I had been working, I often neglected to water them before heading out in the mornings for my shift at the hospital.
As I tugged on the first leaf, I was taken by an odd sort of resistance. So, what else, I tugged harder.
It came loose with a muted Oomph!
Figuring that Botany was up to any one of her crazy antics, I continued harvesting.
The leaves were loath to let go.
I persisted, yanking more vigorously upon each one, to the point of gritting my teeth with the effort. When a large garden spider bounded from his web onto my hand and gave me a bite to remember, I figured I’d collected enough.
* * *
“Thank you for joining us, Doctor.” Joy Carbonfree was welcoming her guest on the morning show to which my car radio was tuned. “So, after reading your article, published just this month in The Journal of Organic Consciousness, I understand you’ve uncovered evidence that there is a revolution underway in our understanding of plant life?”
“That’s correct, Joy. But it’s not a revolutionary finding on the part of us scientists that I’m here to discuss. It’s a revolution — an extraordinary evolution, really — among the plants themselves.”
“Would you mind elaborating for our audience?”
“Of course. It’s simple. The plants we enjoy, that give us shade and nourish each and every one of us, have achieved” — the doctor swallowed audibly — “sentience.”
* * *
“What’s for dinner, Babe?” Nina asked the moment she came through the door.
As she slung her bag from her shoulder, I placed in her hand a tall glass of ice water.
“This is dinner?”
I nodded. Sniffled.
“Oh, Honey! What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
I knew I looked like hell, as many times as I had pulled at my hair over the course of the day but, more likely, it was my tear-stained cheeks that were the give-away.
“I don’t know what else to serve!” I wailed.
* * *
Rather than attempt to offer Nina anything close to a coherent explanation of the source of my distress, I sat her down before the television. With her hand in the vice-grip of my own, we watched in rapt attention the evening network news.
“It all began with nerve-like electrical signals and rises in the hormonal levels of the garden-variety tomato upon sensing a threat,” the well-coiffed anchor explained. “Yet, scientists who observed this phenomenon feared they would be forever labeled as hacks by the establishment and kept their findings — how shall I say — under their hat.
“However, with the publication of groundbreaking research just last week, the establishment itself has had no choice but to admit that sentience has been achieved by the botanical among us. Today, it pains me to report that we have seen the first human casualty: the brutal pummeling of a sous-chef in Mumbai from what appears to be a Veggie Uprising.”
“Wohin gehen wir? Was machen wir?“ cried a farmer just outside of Frankfurt.
“No puede ser!” lamented a grocer in Mexico City.
“Nous ne pouvons pas laisser cela se passer!” sobbed one of Paris’s renowned restaurateurs.
Unable to bear another second, I rose from my seat and clicked off the television at the set. “You know they’re going to punish the vegetation for reacting, for standing up for themselves, right?”
“Of course they are,” Nina affirmed. “That’s the way the world responds to maltreatment. Blame the victim. We can only do what we can, sweetheart.”
“But we haven’t treated them properly either, have we?” I asked, knowing well the answer.
“I’d say we’ve taken a fair amount of abundance for granted.”
“So, what do we eat? We can’t survive on ice water alone!” I cried, tracing the arc of my ribs.
“I don’t believe they mind nourishing us,” Nina said, contemplating as she spoke. “I think they just want to be understood and treated with respect.”
“Like we all do, huh?”
* * *
“Hello, Cabbage, my friend!” I said the next evening as I stood before the cutting board. “Thank you for giving your life force so that we may be happy and healthy.”
The warmth that filled me made the endeavor unlike any culinary experience I had before known. I swear, she nearly leapt to her place beside the potatoes and cashews.
Even Botany looked on with an uncommon air of reverence, which I rewarded with an approving wink before directing my attention back to my ingredients. “We’re not so different, are we?” I asked with humility.
The cabbage rocked gently side to side, and forward, just as I, myself, bowed in turn.
Then, holding her steady, I reached for the knife, which resounded with a most benevolent... Thwack!
Copyright © 2017 by Kelly Sauvage Angel