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The Broccoli of Apocalypse

May 9, 2018

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  (Revelation 3:16-17)

I would not normally quote this passage. Partly on account of the infamous source. When people start quoting from the Book of Revelation, you know there is no puppy around the corner.

And this particular passage, it is a little harsh. We all understand the basic sentiment: mild is boring, bland is no fun. Taco Bell has a similar message, though of dubious sincerity. (For a contrary, Chinese view of the matter, see Francois Jullien’s In Praise of Blandness.) Setting aside an actual contextual and theological reading, we might be tempted to an assent, or even a “Hallelujah!” But Jesus, “spue thee out of my mouth”! That’s gross, and I think it means eternal damnation.

And does lukewarm deserve the bad rap it gets? (This passage could have contributed to that stigma– the Bible used to be very influential.) Suppose we replaced it with “room temperature.” Everybody loves room temperature. That is why we keep our rooms at room temperature. It is comfortable and will not kill us, as most temperatures will. A person who is neither cold nor hot, but room temperature (not literally, for that would be a corpse), is someone you feel okay hanging out with. Why would you spue?

But there is a situation where I find this bit of godly lowdown quite apposite. That is with the subject of broccoli. When raw it is a great snack, crisp, bold and vigorous. When cooked all through to a gentle softness, seasoned as you like it, it is a warm and nourishing complement to any meal. But between the Raw and the Cooked there is a gap, a Forbidden Zone, and I do not want my broccoli to fall there.  Astonishingly, many people do. They favor half-assed broccoli, neither the one nor the other and having the virtues of neither. That kind of broccoli makes me want to, if not spue, then at least not eat. It is just confused. There is no intriguing ambiguity or blending of qualities, it is just underdone broccoli. People of this ilk will often describe properly cooked broccoli as “mushy.” That is just a lie. The softness of well cooked broccoli is a delight to the mouth, of subtle bite, a generous yielding not without integrity. It is no baby food. If you give it a good long chew and then spue it out and then spoon it back into your mouth — as I have done in the interest of culinary science — you will have no trouble discerning a difference between the cooked vegetable and the mush.

Maybe underdone broccoli is acceptable in a stir-fry. I will grant you that. But the better option is just to leave the broccoli out of your stir-fry. Save your broccoli for the scenarios where it can shine. A snack platter with a bowl of dip. Or well steamed and then seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon, butter, grated ginger, fish sauce, rose water, myrrh or whatever pleases you best.

I know a biblical literalist is going to come along and say, “Wait a minute, this passage of holy scripture speaks of the cold and the hot. And a thing we all know about broccoli, when it is not blanketed with a layer of molten cheese or embedded in the volcanic heat of a casserole, but just naked on our plate, is that it loses heat faster than burning brimstone in a font of holy water. The first bite may be hot, but very soon you are faced with a limp and, yes, lukewarm vegetable next to your pork chop.”

I respond as I always do to biblical literalists. What about The Song of Songs? How do you guys take that literally? Do you say, “Uh, there’s this chick, and she has baby deer for tits. Just sticking out of her chest I guess. Weird, but this guy still thinks she’s hot.”? Please, don’t come to me with your Literal Word of God bullshit and your broccoli trutherism. My God is bigger than yours, and He speaks in parables and poetry, and divides all broccoli in twain, as with the sheep and the goats, sending these to the Heavenly crisper, and those to the stove-top of Hell. And all is Delicious.


Disambiguation: Albert “Cubby” Broccoli was a film producer from Queens best known for producing the James Bond films, from Dr. No to Octopussy. His credits also include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Jazz Boat. Born in 1909, he met his personal apocalypse in 1996. What he knows now, no one can say. That was the end of Broccoli.

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