Punny thoughts on cauliflower

There’s not much humor related to the topic of cruciferous vegetables. You can search the Internet for almost any kind of joke, but if you google Brussels sprouts or kale or turnips for any clever witticisms, you’re going to come up empty and disappointed — sort of the way you feel after eating any of that stuff.

There have been a few exceptions. Mark Twain once said that cauliflower was just a head of cabbage with a college education. An old New Yorker cartoon from back in 1928 shows a mother trying to convince her young daughter to eat her vegetables by claiming, “It’s broccoli, dear.” The little girl is unconvinced: “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” The cartoon has become legendary, a classic depiction of childhood defiance.

Now, fast-forward to a recent show when Stephen Colbert asserted that cauliflower was just broccoli trying to win an Academy Award, a not-so-thinly veiled reference to the alleged color bias in the nominating process.

I’d like to see more cruciferous humor, so I was thrilled to read this headline atop a newspaper article in the Wall Street Journal:


I was surprised at the obvious word-play. After all, this is the Wall Street Journal, not exactly a publication known for its whimsy. And the writer, Robin Sidel, is a respected journalist who covers mostly hard news stories. Come to think of it, what’s harder than a head of cauliflower?

The veggie story begins with a reference to a customer at a Sam’s Club making a beeline to the produce area, hoping to find this healthy vegetable, which apparently is in short supply now. “Beeline” is an odd word choice. You make a beeline to shelves with honey.

Sidel laments that because cauliflower is getting tougher to find, many consumers are “fruitlessly” digging into supermarket bins looking for the product. Fruitlessly? Is this an intentional pun? I am not sure, but it is a mixed metaphor. If anything, you would be “vegetatively” looking for the cauliflower.

Then the reporter says that cauliflower’s popularity had “blossomed” over the years as a substitute for starchy foods. Does cauliflower blossom? It grows, it sprouts, it matures. Actually, I’m not sure what it does, but I’m pretty certain there’s no blossoming in the life cycle of a cauliflower. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll try a bouquet for Mary Ellen on Valentine’s Day.

Sidel goes on to call the cauliflower shortage a “crunch,” and again I have to wonder if the word play is deliberate, or do I just look for this kind of stuff? Then she claims that people are “coughing up” (that’s a good one) $4.99 for a head the size of a baseball as the cauliflower scarcity reaches a fever pitch.

Finally, Sidel interviews the woman in the headline who said she has ended her love affair with cauliflower. In the woman’s cauliflower blog (yes, I’m serious) she has, in defiance, posted a recipe for broccoli salad. Says the blogger, “I have now taken my revenge like any former bitter lover.”

There’s the problem: she’s bitter, but her former lover is bland and unexciting. Time to move on. Good luck with broccoli: not exactly the George Clooney of vegetables.

I know a humor column is an odd place to discuss the rising price of cauliflower. I’m just giving you a heads up.