Staring at Broccoli


I have a knack for staring out into nothing, but currently I am staring at broccoli. Though I am certain I’ve purchased broccoli in my adult life, I cannot say I recall the experience. Verily, unless it accompanied a crime spree among the rutabagas and parsley, how could anyone be expected to remember something as unremarkable as selecting produce?

When was the last time you really stared at broccoli? We are gawkers, after all; it seems a perfectly natural, non-committal act. Next time, before you dismember a stalk and add it to your stir fry, really take a long look at broccoli; it mimics a shrunken, barkless tree. Along with its restorative dietary qualities, it can, in a pinch, double as a miniature stunt oak for a particularly destructive landscape live-action sequence. This is a wildly fantastic quality. Cue the makeup artist. Its trunk bulges as if the arm of Schwarzenegger in Hollywood prime. Its bulbous foliage spreads wide, and is thoroughly impenetrable. Its edible, beta-carotene-rich canopy is dense, allowing neither water nor sunlight to filter through to the understory. It is said that a person in confusion cannot see the forest through the trees; having scrutinized broccoli, it would not surprise me one bit to learn that the saying originated with this compact li’l vegetable.

I see in its form the vivid imagination of someone who delights in making oddities and peculiar inventions, perhaps even inspiring the inventor of the umbrella. I could see my role as observer and that of my subject reversed: broccoli staring at me, marveling at my peculiar head of fine, black hair, mid-life belly, freckled face, odd nostrils, and overbite, all the while in verdant awe, offering praise for something so curious and oblong that only a prolific and eccentric artist could have dreamed a thing like me up.

Eric Peters, affectionately called "Pappy" by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He's a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he's not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he's touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.


  1. EmmaJ

    Broccolli IS amazing! Glad to know that this fascination with the tree-ness of this funny vegetable is shared by others. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Eric. This planet truly is full of strange wonders.

  2. Jen

    I had a similar moment last night, staring at a “daddy long leg spider” (which isn’t technically a spider). Such funny, beautiful and personality-rich creatures. This whimsical look at broccoli made me think of that, and it was a pleasure to read.

  3. LauraP

    Praise to the One with the vivid imagination who delights in making oddities and peculiar inventions.

    Love this.

  4. Matthew

    I’ve stared at broccoli before, when I was a prep guy for sub sandwich store. Seems if you don’t package them air tight they get these nasty little bugs in them. They were usually dead from the deap freezer, but I had to dig through them and toss the buggy ones. Only the best for my customers! Hmmm, wonder if that has translated to my engineering? I’m all for a destructive forest scene, when are you going to post the video (needs to have some background music too, maybe “Trees of Relocation”).

  5. Dan R.

    Peter B., I like your style.

    This reminds me of something my mom told me one time. Now if I could only remember what it was…

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