A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read from 1999, The Ugly Vegetables is a first person story about a little girl who wishes her mother would plant something besides “ugly vegetables,” or Chinese greens, during the spring months. While the neighbors are busy watching and smelling their beautiful flower blooms, the narrator is dismayed to see nothing but grass and misshapen bumpy things growing from her mother’s garden. Here’s an excerpt:
Some were big and lumpy. Some were thin and green and covered with bumps. Some were just plain icky yellow. They were ugly vegetables. Sometimes I would go over to the neighbors’ and look at their pretty gardens. They would show the poppies and peonies and petunias to me, and I would feel sad that our garden wasn’t as nice.
Eventually the neighbors smell the wonderful aroma of the narrator’s mother cooking these so-called ugly vegetables, and they come over to feast on the soup her mother has made. I think everyone has a memory of some weird or embarrassing thing their parents did when they were children. One year our parents gave out walnuts on Halloween. Walnuts! Aaron Shiletsky threatened to beat up me and my little sister at the bus stop the next day for that one. Not as satisfying an ending as The Ugly Vegetables, perhaps, but possibly just as fascinating. ABZ