Partial transcript from group therapy session, Baylor University Medical Center, March 15, 2006.
...screamed in agony. It was like someone, you know, some weed-smoking, tie-dyed vegan took a pair of tweezers and ripped the veins right out of my epidermis.
Bibb lettuce: You mean they burn us and breathe the smoke? Is this the health of vegetables?
Dr. Vinaigretoux: That's another session, Tuesdays, 7 p.m. I'm glad you brought this up. So for this abandonment, you blame your father?
Spinach: My father was puréed with dill fronds and simmered into a soup before I was 3 months old. My mother raised us in the furrow alone, until she was uprooted, hacked with a cleaver and scalded with hot bacon dressing, the sous bastard.
Arugula: Bacon? Get the pigs. That's what I say. Do to them what they did to Basil.
Dr. V: You're hot and bitter, and you're sublimating the...
Spinach: No, that's Arugula.
Arugula: He means angry, you wilted lackwit.
Dr. V: Good. Keep going. I feel some healing here. Is there anything else that's coming up?
Arugula: Well, you know, I just wish he'd choose his words more carefully. And anyway, he starred in that sailor cartoon, Popeye, is it? So he gets residuals. What's he need therapy for? I mean, my parents were consumed in the great tapenade vinaigrette flood of '05.
Spinach: It was my great-uncle! And he was animated, blanched and vacuum-packed in a can. Hell, in Tootsie, Tomato was played by Dustin Hoffman.
Tomato: You think being played by Hoffman heals my pain? My mother was steamed, skinned, chopped and put into a spicy gazpacho sorbet. Hey, where's Scallion?
Bibb Lettuce: Oh man, you didn't hear?
Tomato: What? Hear what?!
Arugula: He bit it in a Chang's Soothing Lettuce Wrap.
Dr. V: OK, OK. We've entered a vulnerable space here. Let's stiffen our spines a bit. We've all experienced tragedy. We...
Arugula: Spines? We're vegetables, you idiot.
Dr. V: .. . got through the great New York borscht craze with Beet. In our Wednesday sessions, we're helping Baby Corn get through the current corn foam fad, and this is where Heirloom Carrot has been deeply supportive, especially since, as you may know, she just found out her father was grated and cooked in a chervil timbale. This is...
Spinach: There's an even greater threat. You hear about this place called Greenz? It focuses exclusively on salads, big, fluffy salads with green leaves, succulent cabbage and bright mutilated carrots. Their aim is to "immerse you in the fresh, healthy culture of salad." Is that sick or what? They divide the menu between the veggie-addled and the carnivorous, but the leaves and roots and sprouts are the unmistakable attraction. These are meal-sized things. How do you face down such a threat?
Arugula: They have these posters on the walls such as "If a rabbit don't eat it, you don't need it" and "Lettuce an aphrodisiac? The ancient Egyptians thought so." This is veggie porno. This is shameless promotion of vegetable cruelty.
Bibb Lettuce: It isn't all violent vegetable exploitation though. They have these things called chipotle chicken pinwheels studded with sun-dried tomatoes and jack cheese bound up and twisted into a tomato-basil tortilla wrap and served with a thick, chunky salsa.
Bibb Lettuce: And they have a chipotle chicken salad topped with cheese, pecans and a spindly pile of crispy tortilla strips. It kind of looks like a bifurcated sea urchin.
Arugula: If only.
Bibb Lettuce: OK, so it has lots of fluffy, fresh and blemish-free greens and bright chopped tomatoes.
Tomato: (carried out in a wicker basket)
Spinach: Yeah, but I heard the chicken stuff is awful. The pinwheels are cold and pasty. The pulverized chicken in the salad is the same: Like fuzz in cold cream. So the focus is still on us. We're primed for ravishment.
Arugula: I don't get this. People are up in arms about chickens because they spend their whole lives in these cramped corporate condos. These animals even get Edie Falco or Carmela Soprano or whatever to speak out against animal inconvenience. Well, let me tell you something: We spend our lives stem-deep in black Angus shit just to be ripped out of the ground, shredded and tossed with tofu. What I want to know is, who's going to speak out for mesclun mix?
Spinach: Yeah, scientists have attached sensitive microphones to vegetation and discovered that we scream when under attack. Vegetables initiate a massive hormone barrage akin to a nerve response whenever we're pulled up, peeled, cooked and eaten.
Dr. V: So it feels like the next step in our work would be to explore Greenz, if it feels safe.
Bibb Lettuce: It's fast casual. Counter service with table delivery. Cheerful, efficient servers that do reconnaissance around the tables. Swirled concrete floors. Mint green and bristle-brushed eggplant walls. Essentially a creepy veggie morgue.
Spinach: What I hear is, the asparagus soup topped with Gouda is like creamed silk. It's dashed with just the right amount of salt. But here's the problem: They stumble on the carnivore side of the aisle, so the eye is always on us.
Bibb Lettuce: There's this thing called Bar None: essentially a salad in a concert shell made of pretzel dough. The thing spills with lush greens, tomatoes, roasted nuts and strips of flank steak all washed in wheat beer vinaigrette.
Dr. V: Clever. Twisted, but clever.
Bibb Lettuce: But the meat is gray, dry and has an off flavor, like it was old or abandoned or something. Another thing that has promise is the spicy panko shrimp salad, which is a heap of greens, daikon radish and edamame sprouts, carrots and wasabi peas...
Spinach: They do that to peas?
Bibb Lettuce:... splashed with a lemongrass vinaigrette heaped against a fresh crispy wonton. But the shrimp is dry and tough, and aside from a little wasabi sting on account of those peas, there's no spice. So again, we have to shoulder the burden.
Arugula: They suggest wine and salad pairings. You believe that? Now they're pushing salads with wine?
Bibb Lettuce: They say Pepperwood Pinot Noir with the BBQ Texas slaw.
Spinach: That's the one that works. Put aside the perfect red and green cabbage and bright carrot strips. The shredded pork is juicy, tender and sopped with a provocative sweet-spicy barbecue sauce. We need to pressure people to skip the slaw part.
Dr. V: I'm feeling a lot of pent-up hostility here. Where do we take this? How do we emphasize the possibility of healing?
Arugula: By taking this to the streets. We're forming an activist group. Featured in our media blitz is a gripping documentary: Screaming Cabbage Heads.
D. V: This group?
Arugula: PEVT, man: People for Ethical Vegetable Treatment. The "e" is long by the way, 'cause we're peeved.
Dr. V: You have a celebrity spokesperson? The animal rights people have Moby.
Arugula: Yeah, we're working on Heidi Fleiss. I think we've convinced her that shucking doesn't inconvenience oysters too much, so she won't starve. It was tough. She fell for that Egyptian lettuce myth hook, line and sinker.
Spinach: Who's this Moby?
Dr. V: He's a famous vegan musician, who claims he's distantly related to Herman Melville, who wrote Moby Dick.
Arugula: Well, let's field dress this Moby and render his blubber for lamp fuel. 2808 McKinney Ave., No. 109, Dallas, 214-720-7788; 15615 Quorum Drive, Addison, 972-385-7721. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. $$
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