There is a book on vegetables in literature – rather, on the literary life of vegetables or vegetables as literary figures. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, especially not to those who are aware that someone has written about the importance of spiderwebs in Middlemarch (one imagines the scholar thanking her spouse in the preface, perhaps for dusting). There is not, to my knowledge, a book about the importance of cabbages in world literature, and this is a fault which should be remedied. I haven’t the time to compose such a scintillating opus, and so I shall briefly make a case for its importance.
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Who the hell am I kidding? I hate cabbages – even if they were mentioned by the sixth-century iambic poet Hipponax (who is, incidentally, the earliest Greek source on scapegoating), by Juvenal, by Rabelais, by Woolf and by Forster, and by others I have in the meantime forgotten, always in terms of the mundane, the ordinary, the antithesis of the divine – which is, one must admit, a pretty accurate description of a cabbage.