The other day I bought a purple cauliflower. Why? Because, like Mount Everest, it was there. And because it had a message for me, sitting patiently with the other purple cauliflowers in a crate. Never underestimate the lure of a purple cauliflower in the middle of a cold and dreary lockdown 3.
“It’s not all doom and gloom,” the purple cauliflower whispered seductively as I passed. “Look at me. I mean, have you ever seen such an utterly unexpected shade of purple?”
I suppose I could have ignored it, but I had queued for quite a while outside Lotts & Co, the fancy new grocery store in Clontarf. Both the purple cauliflower and the 10 diverting minutes I spent inside the shop, ogling their vast range of international condiments from places none of us is allowed to visit, felt like a reward.
It really was quite a sensational purple. I knew it would cause a stir when I got it home. I imagined it as the bright, shining star of the inauguration feast I was planning as a celebration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House and the end – oh, the joyous relief – of Donald Trump’s term. Tonight we’ll have democratic blue napkins and a suffragette purple cauliflower and lots of champagne. My daughters are even making their fizzy lockdown lemonade.
Will he wear cryptic slogans on the back of his suits like Melania Trump? And how exactly will he decorate the White House for Christmas?
We’ll fill our champagne flutes and toast Biden and then Harris, cheering on the first female and first black vice-president. And there’ll be a toast too for the first second gentleman in American history, Harris’s supportive husband Doug Emhoff.
One lockdown distraction I’m longing for are all the articles analysing Emhoff’s choice of cufflinks and ties and suits and footwear at the inauguration. All those think-pieces and opeds examining what his personal presentation says about the kind of Sgotus – second gentleman of the United States – he is going to be.
Will he be a Jackie Kennedy-style fashion guru or will his outfits have more conservative gravitas teamed with large hats a la Eleanor Roosevelt? Will he wear cryptic slogans on the back of his suits like Melania Trump? And how exactly, the world is dying to find out, will he decorate the White House for Christmas?
I’m sure the Sgotus will be under the same scrutiny for every hairstyle, gesture and shoe colour choice as all first ladies through American history. Another blow for gender equality. I can’t wait.
Back to that purple cauliflower. It made me think of that poem about ageing disgracefully, Warning by Jenny Joseph, which begins: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.” I wonder if regular cauliflowers give purple cauliflowers the cold floret for being attention-seeking, non-conforming show-offs.
I was in a good mood after the queue – the purple cauliflower caught me at just the right time. I used to hate queueing. I avoided a lot of things in pre-pandemic times because they involved standing in line.
But, like you, I queue all the time now. I queue like a professional. I am the world’s most enthusiastic and organised queuer. Queuing for things and staring at balsamic vinegar in fancy supermarkets is what passes for a social life these days.
A few days before Christmas, I queued for 50 minutes outside Brady’s butcher at 8am on a dark, cold morning. I wore two pairs of leggings and I planned what podcast I’d listen to while queueing: Dolly Parton’s America.
I cooked the purple cauliflower but the purple faded on being exposed to heat, becoming a disappointing, nondescript hue
There is a jewellery store beside Brady’s and for at least 10 minutes, when my bit of the queue was beside the shop, I gazed into the window wondering what I’d have bought, if I was the type of person who favoured traditional jewellery made from precious metals instead of laser-cut statement pieces of plastic so large they’d take your eye out.
I appraised things I’d never owned and never would. Sparkling engagement rings, elegant crucifixes on chains. Then after a while I arrived at the bit of the queue beside the butcher’s, so I eyed up the chicken breasts and spare ribs and listened to stories about Dolly. The 50 minutes flew by.
The day I purchased my purple cauliflower, I had been out for a cycle within my 5km. When I saw the long line outside Lotts & Co, rather than being put off, I got excited about wasting time in another socially distanced queue. I didn’t even have my earphones on for podcast distraction so instead I stood there, gazing at the Clontarf prom, watching the sun set over an industrial estate and jogging for 100 seconds on the spot to keep warm each time the queue moved.
When I got the cauliflower home, I decided I couldn’t wait for the inauguration. I cooked the purple cauliflower but the purple faded on being exposed to heat, taking on a disappointing, nondescript hue. As we ate our now only vaguely lavender-looking cauliflower cheese, I thought about how full of promise the purple cauliflower had seemed when, as it turned out, it didn’t taste any different from the regular kind.
It reminded me of this year. A year we thought might be different, with all the vaccines arriving, but which, in this most perilous week of the pandemic, only seems set to serve up more of the same.
New year. New president of the United States. Also new, a woman as vice-president and a Sgotus. Same old cauliflower.