A Tale of Two Gumbos

One

…the intercom sounds.

An incoherent muffling of someone speaking pierces through the entire store;

sound waves bouncing off the floor tiles in desperate need of polishing.

“Craig………customer service. Craig to customer service. Thank you”

The noises of the store pick up.

The ruffling of plastic bags, the beeps of the scanner, the whining children, the screechy carts, the McDonalds employees screaming out numbers, the indistinct chatter.

A man walks into the store.

He is met by a grim looking greeter who twitches his face in an attempt to smile. The corners of his mouth move 1cm sideways while his teeth remain resolutely inside his mouth; he presses his lips together and looks at our walking man.

“…………..”

No words are spoken.

The man rushes to the produce center.

He first approaches a mountain of tomatoes sitting under a fluorescent light, their red and ripe juicy looking skin shining amongst the sea of produce; its own island of food group ambiguity.

“WOOOOOAH HEY! I’M A TOMATO!!!!!! NICE TO MEET YOU!!!!!! I—”

The tomato starts to shout, before being silenced by the man’s hands.

The man furiously chucks the tomato back into the tomato mountain; his face wrinkling with frustration; his jaw tightening from clenching his teeth.

He scrunches his noise up in disgust.

“These damn tomatoes are too loud!!! How am I supposed to do my cooking, let alone shopping, with this shouting!?

He audibly exhales while his chest constricts, lungs compressing with every cubic millimeter of air molecules leaving his mouth.

Slowed by the unplanned encounter with the tomato, he walks briskly to the refrigerated section of produce; cold misty steam showering down to cool his heated face.

He begins to search for the perfect pepper.

He reaches forward and grasps a small hot pepper in his hand—

Hey man! Get your grimy hands off me!”

“Excuse me? I’m a human. I can touch whatever I want.”

“Human eh? So be it, I’m going to count to three and if you insist on maintaining contact with me, I will spray pepper juice into your eyes.”

“One….Two….”

Under his breath, the man declares…

“Ha. Stupid pepper. It should respect us humans and our…OWWWWW! IT BURNS!”

The pepper, a vegetable of its word, ferociously sprays a high-pressure stream of potent pepper juice into the man’s eyes.   He stumbles back and presses his hands to his face in ocular agony.

In a fit of weakness to rage the man screams,

“Forget it!!!! All these peppers are downright awful!!!!”

The man, overwhelmed by his anger, decided to move on yet again, passing up opportunities with both the tomato and the pepper. In a final attempt at produce procurement, the man directs his feet to the location of the onions.

He jukes and dodges his way around a minefield of dried crunch peels, the aroma impairing his vision and smell.

In the distance, he hears a faint crying. Louder and Louder it gets with every step until he pinpoints the source; in front of him a sobbing little onion.

“He…he…hello. *Sniff Sniff* I’m an onion. *Sniff Sniff* Sorry…if….if….”

The onion breaks into tears.

Crying profusely, unable to form a coherent string of words.

“Hey onion!”

No luck. The man tries again.

“Onion. Hey stop crying. I can’t add you to the basket if you—

“WAHHHHH WAHHHHH. *Sniff*”

“Seriously. Get over it and thanks for nothing. What a waste this whole store was”

The man rushes back home and cooks his homemade gumbo without the passed-up produce. His family consumes it reluctantly. His youngest child, displeased, with a scrunched up nose which signals the “yucky” face, says:

“Daddy”

“Yes my, child?”

“Why doesn’t this Gumbo have veggies in it”

“Well tomatoes are too loud, peppers too rude, and onions too emotional. So, we just have to do without them unfortunately. It’s such a shame all of them couldn’t be better. I would have used them in our gumbo.

But oh well. They’re all just a bunch a of Pesky Produce after all.”

“Yeah! Pesky Produce!”

The family continues to finish dinner…


Two

…the intercom sounds. An incoherent muffling of someone speaking pierces through the entire store; sounds waves bouncing off the floor tiles in desperate need of polishing.

“Craig………customer service. Craig to customer service. Thank you”

The noises of the store pick up. The ruffling of plastic bags, the beeps of the scanner, the wining children, the screechy carts, the McDonalds employees screaming out numbers, the indistinct chatter.

A man walks into the store. He is met by the grim looking greeter who twitches his face in an attempt to smile. The corners of his mouth move 1cm sideways while his teeth remain resolutely inside his mouth, he presses his lips together and looks at our walking man.

”Hi”

Our man says.

He then glides over to the produce center. He first approaches the mountain of tomatoes sitting under a fluorescent light, their red and ripe juicy looking skin shining amongst the sea of produce, its own island of food group ambiguity.   

“WOOOOOAH HEY! I’M A TOMATO!!!!!! NICE TO MEET YOU!!!!!! I…..”  Tomato starts to shout

“Woah man! You took me by surprise. It’s nice to meet you too. Why are you out here screaming Tomato?

“MY SON JUST GRADUATED FROM RIPE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN FLORIDA. FIRST GENERATION COLLEGIATE TOMATOES IN OUR FAMILY!”

“Oh that’s great! I’m happy for your son. Let’s celebrate by making a delicious gumbo!”

“SOUNDS GOOD TO ME!”

The Man and Tomato join forces. Tomato travels alongside The Man in a plastic basket The Man carries over to the peppers, but instead he is stopped in his tracks by the faint noise of a distant crying.

“What’s that?” Tomato asks

“I think that’s an onion crying. Poor thing. Let’s go take a look.”

“He…he…hello. *Sniff Sniff* I’m an onion. *Sniff Sniff* Sorry…if….if….”

Onion breaks into tears. Crying profusely, unable to form a coherent string of words.

“WAHHHHH WAHHHHH. *Sniff*”

Onion continues to cry. The man decides to embrace Onion in his hands and hold it snugly to provide comfort to the melancholic vegetable.

Onion’s tears start to subside.

“It’s alright Onion”

The man whispers

It’s alright”

“Th…Than…Thank you. “I…I….”

Onion fights back the tears, takes a deep breath, and composes itself.

“Thank you. Sorry for bawling my layers out. I’m sad because I was separated from my parents during The Harvest. Not many of us were able to make it out. And the ones who did are all alone.”

“Oh my goodness. You poor little onion without a place in this world. You know, I’m making a fresh gumbo for my family tonight. Why don’t you come have dinner with us?”

“That is so kind! I would love to be in the gumbo!”

Onion then joins Tomato in the basket. The three the travel over to The Man’s final destination. The dangerously spicy Pepper.  They approach with caution due to an incident which happened earlier that day. All over the news, ‘Out of Control Pepper Attacks Harmless Grocery Shopper.’

“I’m scared, we shouldn’t go.”

“I AGREE. WE MIGHT GET PEPPER SPRAYED”

“Hey now. Just because we’re all scared, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give Pepper a fair chance. That’s not right. We’re going.”

The Man approaches Pepper slowly,

“Don’t touch me with your dirty hands, or I’ll spray you! I’m serious!”

“Dirty Hands? What if I washed them?”

“Oh! That’s absolutely fine! I only hate when people touch me with dirty hands”

“Good deal.”

The man runs to the restroom expediently, washes his hands vigorously, and the returns to Pepper.

“Is this better Pepper?”

“Yes of course. Now what’s up?”

“Oh, well, me and my friends here are making some Gumbo with my family tonight, and were wondering if you’d like to join us? You are a crucial ingredient and we would appreciate your company”

“Well sign me up! I’m totally in!”

The Man, Tomato, Onion, and Pepper all return home and begin cooking the gumbo together. Before he lays the vegetables into the pot the man says,

“Hey Y’all. Thank you for helping me out today.”

 All three nod in affirmation and one by one they drop into the southern stew. His family consumes the Gumbo. Content and with a full little tummy, his youngest child asks,

“Daddy?”

“Yes, my child”

“This gumbo is yummy! What’s the secret?”

“To make daddy’s gumbo, (The Best Gumbo in the World), you need the patience to do three things.

“What? What? What is it?”

Hear out a Tomato, Feel for an Onion, and Respect a Pepper”

“But Why?”

“Because the Gumbo wouldn’t be Gumbo without them.”

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