I knew it was too good to last.
As the Toronto Star’s Zoe McKnight reported on Friday: “Those who enjoy or at least tolerate cauliflower will be relieved to find it is returning to its status as blandly affordable.”
And just like that, The Great Cauliflower Crisis of 2016 was over, leaving nothing but a bad taste in the mouths of those who were secretly thrilled the price was soaring. Such a shift in the vegetable-wallet complex could have greatly diminished the chance of ever again having to eat that revolting plant that resembles a cluster of shrunken brains soaked in Clorox.
Show of hands: how many of you know even one person who can’t live without cauliflower? Have you ever gone out for dinner with a friend who, upon glancing at the menu, looked up and shrieked, “Oh my God, they have a cauliflower starter!” Have you ever seen a cauliflower tattoo? How many cauliflower heists in the history of humanity? Zero?
Even hardcore vegans are ambivalent about cauliflower because no matter how you tart it up — exotic spices, dangerous amounts of butter, molten cheese, seared, grilled, baked, charred with lobster and caviar, drenched in hot sauce — it is still cauliflower.
It has the texture of hardened Play-Doh. It is as satisfying as a mouthful of dust bunnies. At a molecular level, cauliflower is disgusting.
So the real mystery is how did cauliflower become the star in the larger narrative of inflation and a tumbling loonie? The price of many foods has spiked in recent weeks. I have stumbled upon shrimp rings that cost as much as silk scarves and bottles of cherry juice that require a line of credit. It’s now impossible to navigate the aisles of a grocery store without doing several double takes while pushing your cart and scanning prices that seem to contain an extra digit.
But instead of The Great Pecan Predicament or The Dismaying Rice Krispies Setback, the media made hay out of cauliflower. Now that the price has regressed to base line — going from about two bucks to eight and back again in record time — we are all pretty much screwed.
We cried cauliflower wolf. We bought into the laughable fiction this putrid flower head was veering toward “luxury” status, as if there would soon be a black market and violent cauliflower cartels controlling international supply. As if destitute gamblers would soon be digging up fields at 2 a.m. and trying to hawk cauliflower roots to pawn shops. As if cauliflower-shaped diamonds would soon be showcased at Birks. Or music videos would soon be stripped of all gratuitous cash and supercar shots so rappers could telegraph their wealth by flashing cauliflower bling.
If playing the cauliflower card wasn’t bad enough, I fear the speed in which the situation went from “dire” to “everything is fine again” will also have grim ramifications. We needed The Great Cauliflower Crisis to endure a few months to establish a precedent, a blueprint of avoidance for all unwanted foods.
In the future, if the crisis was still code red, I could have safely returned home from the market and told my wife, “Sorry, honey, I didn’t get the parsnips on your list. They were like $185. I think this cauliflower thing is spreading. It seems we are also in the midst of an eggplant emergency and possibly a cottage cheese catastrophe. But there was a great sale on chicken wings.”
This leads to another side of the tragedy: now when the market fluctuates or macroeconomic forces press down on things we really need, everyone will be like, “Oh, don’t worry. This is just like the Cauliflower Crisis. It’ll be over soon.”
That’s a risk I’m not willing to take should prices soar for, say, vodka.
I don’t expect any sympathy or even understanding over my lifelong hatred of cauliflower. When I told editors the subject of today’s dispatch, even they were openly sarcastic.
“Makes me fear for the future,” wrote Ariel Teplitsky. “Have we reached Peak Brussels Sprout?”
This prompted Kathryn Laskaris to chime in with, “Lettuce be calm.”
No. Never. I’ve got too much emotional cabbage to let this go. We had a chance to draw serious attention to the cost of food, the cost of living in Canada. We squandered this chance with a puffed-up crisis over a grotesque vegetable nobody cared about in the first place.
Let them eat cauliflower.