It is with great fanfare and a greeny contentment that I announce a new era of Weird Vegetables. Erin, my ghostly blogmate whose last post was back in some wintry month and now lies covered with a thin layer of dust, has moved in with me, thus heralding the burgeoning of a heretofore unwitnessed Produce Utopia in our kitchen and enabling me to nag her daily about helping out with the blog.
While searching for a new home for Erin's pasta maker and food processor, we came across a mysterious jar labeled KIMCHEE in one of the upper cupboards. The jar itself was not such a question mark, since I recognized it as the brand of kim chee that my former roommate Rachel regularly kept in the fridge. No, what drew our curiosity was the jar's contents: a tangled mass of delicate chartreuse tendrils. It looked like seaweed or the hair of some tiny sea nymph. Or some secret experiment Rachel had been marinating in the cobwebbed corners of our cupboard space.
I gingerly unscrewed the lid and poked my nose into the jar. Dill. The scent was faint but unmistakable. The taste was like pencil shavings. When I pulled the wizened herb out of its hard nest, it held its cylindrical shape and was quite beautiful. But something about its fragility cried out to be returned to its glassy shell and I acquiesced. It made me think of the Sybil of Cumae, the seer who asked Apollo to let her live for a thousand years but without asking for eternal youth. Her body withered into such a small case for her poor soul that she could eventually be kept in a jar. In the epigraph to The Wasteland, a poem I was obsessed with as an undergraduate and still think about surprisingly often, T.S. Eliot quotes a few lines on her from The Satyricon in Latin and Greek that translate into the following:
I have seen with my own eyes the Sibyl hanging in a jar, and when the boys asked her "What do you want?" She answered,"I want to die."
Maybe Rachel was trying to create the thousand-year-old dill weed that would prophesy our futures in croaking whispers. But perhaps I should lay it to rest. . . It looks a little fatigued.