The Vegetable War

The 2002 session of the Utah state legislature ended this week with a raging debate over the Official State Vegetable: Should it be the Spanish sweet onion or the sugar beet? (Not in the running: Gayle Ruzicka.)

Debate probably raged over other, weightier matters during the session, too, but I didn’t notice because that kind of news bores me. I am easily distracted, and I prefer news that caters to my short attention span. Legislature headlines always have verbs like “considers” and “discusses.” I want verbs like “explodes” and “devours.”

Anyway, our representatives initially chose the Spanish sweet onion to be our state vegetable, but then they were bombarded with complaints from the state’s sugar beet supporters, who are the powerful, dark overlords of the vegetable world. But that made the Spanish sweet onion people mad, because they HATE the sugar beet people — they always have to be seated separately at vegetable functions (like, I don’t know, salads I guess), and the groups are always talking smack about each other and getting into rumbles on the street. So the legislature couldn’t just cave in to the sugar beet people, but neither could they ignore the Spanish sweet onion contingency.

Eventually, the legislature amended the bill to designate the Spanish sweet onion as the state vegetable, and the sugar beet as the “historic state vegetable.” What this essentially means, of course, is that the sugar beet USED to be the state vegetable, but has been dethroned by a better, mightier vegetable, the Spanish sweet onion. “Historic” is a nice way of saying “you used to be big, but now you’re a has-been. You stink, sugar beet.” Why the fearsome sugar beet lobby was placated by such a derisive backhanded compliment is beyond me, but the fact is, they are happy.

Why Utahns would accept an onion apparently from a foreign country as their official state vegetable puzzles me, too. Once the John Birch Society, all beady-eyed and frothy-mouthed, finally achieves its goal of overthrowing the government and thrusting a gun into the trembling hand of every man, woman and child in America, let me assure you, the borders will slam shut and you can kiss the Spanish sweet onion goodbye! Then the weak-willed Utah state legislature will be forced to reckon with its mollycoddling of the Spanish sweet onion lobby.

But for the time being, yes, everyone is happy about the vegetable compromise, especially those of us who take pleasure in seeing people act serious about silly things.

You may wonder what some of Utah’s other Official State Things are. Conveniently, there is a list here. You will notice that they use legal jargon to clarify things. For example, the state folk dance is the square dance. Foreseeing that a lot of people would engage in passionate arguments about what, exactly, constitutes a “square dance,” and that many would be killed in the ensuing melee, the lawmakers have defined it: “The folk dance that is called, cued, or prompted to the dancers and includes squares, rounds, clogging, contra, line and heritage dances.” So don’t go trying to sneak in a non-official dance move and still hope to be considered part of the official state folk dance, buster!

Utah does not have a state primate, so I nominate the roller-skating monkey. The matter is not open for debate, so other primates, worthy as they may be, will need to accept this and move on.

I can't stop making Gayle Ruzicka jokes! I'm powerless to resist.

I suggested the Herald copy editors use "Vegetables Devoured by Exploding Legislature" for the headline -- thus using two of my favorite verbs -- and surprisingly enough, they did it.

After I cracked on the John Birch Society a couple months earlier, members of that organization came out of the woodworks, providing me with literature and dogma. The result? I now think they're even crazier than I used to think they were.