To borrow a literary device from world-renowned humorist Dave Barry, I swear that I am not making this up.
As reported on January 10, 2002 in the National Post, chaos has erupted in the newly formed European Union over the criteria by which lumpy sauce can be legally considered a vegetable:
An obscure panel of technocrats, known as the “Nomenclature” sub-group of the Customs Code Committee, will decide how many lumps are admissible in a can of mushroom or pasta sauce before these products turn into vegetables, losing their tariff privileges as sauces.
A sauce containing more than 20% in lumps is now classified as a vegetable, even if the lumps are fruit, triggering import taxes that can reach 288%.
Strict tests are carried out in laboratories using metal wire sieves with an aperture of five millimetres. The lumps are then rinsed in warm water.
If they remain lumps, the sauce is a vegetable.
This is tragic. When, oh when, are our non-elected government appointees going to grow some brains? How could they have gone ahead with the relatively simple activity of harmonizing 12 or 15 European currencies (they should try harmonizing my cheque book with my bank statement!), before tackling the really tough issues like vegetablization?
But seriously, this story clearly demonstrates that there are still people in the world with waaaay too much time on their hands. Just imagine, there are actual people of reasonable intelligence (at least I assume so, not really knowing what sort of intellect is required to be nominated to the “Nomenclature”) debating when lumps of fruit become vegetables. Meanwhile, real people in the form of lab technicians are reduced to washing strained lumps of food to see if they retain their lumpiness.
I can imagine the following lab conversation:
Lab Technician #1: Is that lump a beet?
Lab Technician #2: No, I think it’s a cherry.
Nomenclature Overseer: Fools! It’s a plum pit.
As a statistician who likes to harp endlessly on the misuse of numbers, what exactly does “20%” refer to? Does a sauce have to have 20% of lumps by weight, volume, density, or taste, before it is considered a vegetable? These are the type of important questions that I am sure the vegetablizers are thinking deep thought about as we speak. In my mind, any sauce that contains any amount of turnip should be disqualified as a food altogether.
But perhaps the food folks of the European Union are onto something here. In the face of an utterly inane concept that defies all reason, a concept that high officialdom has clearly grasped onto like the lumps on a camel, we of lesser high-mindedness are left with no other alternative than to try to take advantage of this concept for our own purposes.
My children, like yours, have an aversion to eating meat at suppertime, or potatoes or vegetables. So I propose the following solution. After an hour of picking over their supper, mix in whatever is left on their plate with a sufficient amount of cake, ice cream or Jell-o that they are going to have for dessert to ensure that the dessert is comprised of no more than 20% supper. Then invoke the European Union standard of food transformation and tell them to eat their lumps.
Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.