“I have bred a cultivar of celery that tastes like cheese.”
Overgang Dood and Melanoma-on-the-arsehole-of-existence ("Arsehole" to her friends) stared at the plate that Joey Tamlin was offering them. Then they looked at each other quizzically, (Overgang, of course, through his trademark sunglasses) then at Joey’s grinning face, then back at the plate. Overgang asked the question they both wanted answered.
“I don’t think you heard me, I said I’ve bred –“
“A cultivar of celery that tastes like cheese, yes. Why?”
“Well, I was making a sandwich, right, and you know how I get about my sandwiches, triple-decker, Colby cheese squares, sliced ham, gluten free white bread, because of the allergies, right?”
“Right. So, I go to the kitchen, and all we’ve got is shredded cheddar, since Molly – you know I’m living with Molly now, right – Molly got up in the middle of night and just ate the whole damn block of cheese raw, even though it was my cheese, and she knows how I get about my sandwiches, so I was kind of pissed off, right?”
Overgang fist-bumped Arsehole, Joey barely stopping to register the joke.
“Right, cheesed, nice, whatever. Anyway, I’m sitting here, and my bread’s still toasting, since you know I like to toast it a little bit, make it a little crunchy, right, and I look in the fridge and all we’ve got is shredded cheddar. So I think, sure, what the hell, toast’s already in the toaster, so I put down the cheddar ready to go. I pull out the ham then, right, and you know how we buy the stuff full leg at a time, because it’s crazy cheap like that, right?”
“Right. So, I’m sitting there, and I get out a knife, and I go to cut the ham, since I normally cut the cheese first, but like I said, the cheese was shredded already. So I go to cut the ham and then I realise, sliced ham only makes sense with sliced cheese, shredded cheese NEEDS shredded ham, so I think to myself that this just won’t do! So I look at my toast, and I’ve only got about half a minute left before it’s done, and you know I need to chuck everything on right after it comes out of the toaster, right, so that the cheese melts and everything, or otherwise it’s ruined. So, quick thinking, I pull out the box grater. And I think to myself, hell, sure you can just grate ham, right?”
“Wrong. See, ham on the leg is crazy fibrous, right, so if you’re not doing it with a food processor or something, it just gets caught up and it’s basically terrible. If you’re not doing it right, it’s like you’re rubbing the grater against tree bark or something, right, bits are coming off, but they aren’t really woodchips if you get my drift. So my toast pops up, and I chuck the scraps of ham and the cheese in and I make my sandwich and it wasn’t super great, but it was alright.”
There was a moment of silence, broken by Arsehole.
“And… cheese celery?”
“Oh! Right. Anyway, I’m eating my sandwich, and I’m thinking, well, the reason that you can’t grate leg ham with a box grater is it’s fibrous, right, but my cheese was already grated, so I think, ‘what if cheese was fibrous?’, and I think about this for a bit, and I say, what the hell, something to do I guess. So that’s it. Cheese-celery. Cheecelery.”
Joey offered the plate again, grinning from ear to ear. Overgang continued questioning.
“Why celery and not, like, cheese carrots or something?”
“Well, Molly had some celery growing in the garden, so it was just handy I guess.”
“And does Molly know you were fucking with the genome of her celery?”
“I… may not have gotten around to telling her just yet.”
Arsehole shook her head disapprovingly.
“Should probably get around to that, Joey. Anyway. Cheecelery. Let’s have some then.”
Overgang cautiously reached over to the plate, picking up a piece and examining it. It looked like celery. He snapped it with his fingers, producing a characteristic crunch. It sounded like celery. Then he licked the halves, and his tongue felt the taste of rich cheddar cheese. He placed them on his tongue and relished in his palate’s confusion, then started chewing. Crunch, crunch, crunch. It felt fibrous and crispy, and yet, CHEESE.
“Joey, this is just weird, man.”
“I dunno, I could get used to it.”
“Could put it on crackers, I guess.”
“Could put it on pizzas instead of cheese.”
“Oh man, that’d be… weird. What’d stick the other stuff to the top though?”
“Sauce is sticky, ya nong.”
“Right, right. Lasagne?”
“Crunchy lasagne! Crunchy cheeseburgers!”
“I’d eat it.”
“I’d eat it too.”
The pair of them turned to Joey, speaking in unison.
“This is pretty cool.”
“So, you don’t like, feel sick or anything? Or high?”
“No, why would we…”
Overgang spat out his mouthful of Cheecelery.
“You were using us as fucking GUINEA PIGS?”
Joey broke into peals of laughter.
“I’m fucking with you, it’s fine. Thing is, got me to thinking, right, what about other food, or whatever? We call ourselves artists, but honestly, I’m a pretty shitty chef. All I eat is ham and cheese sandwiches.”
“Hey, I worked at a pizza place for a year.”
“That’s assembly, it doesn’t count.”
“Anyway, not my point. All I’ve ever done in the past is visual art, right? Like painting, or sculpture, or that thing in ’93.”
“Oh man, I loved the thing in ’93!”
“Well yeah, everyone loved the thing in ’93, it was a thing that made you love it.”
“Not my point, guys. The thing is, I’ve been sticking to titillation of the eyeballs for way too long, and I can’t think of a single guy out there who’s just making weird food.”
“Eddins did, I think.”
“Eddins? Guy with the curly hair? Come on, everyone knows Eddins.”
“Oh, Curly Hair Guy, right. Never talked to him, keep seeing him around.”
“Yeah, Eddins fucked around with food for a bit. Didn’t do much with it though, from what I remember. Stopped with it after those fucking tomatoes.”
“Well that’s the thing, right, food’s like performance art. You make it, you give it to someone, and they eat it. It’s real intimate, right? And you can’t make the same meal exactly the same way twice, so it’s properly one-of-a-kind, you can’t copy a meal the same way you can copy a game or something.”
Overgang, one of the few professional anartist coders, frowned at this.
“Hey, Joey, that’s… well, yeah. That’s kind of true.”
“No offense, man.”
“Hey, you’ve got a point.”
“Anyway. I reckon I’m going to do some stuff with food for the next exhibition. Stretch out a bit, you know, expand horizons or whatever. Just walk around with a platter of trippy sweets and snacks and stuff.”
“Sounds neat. You realise that’s on Friday though, right?”
“Wait, that’s this Friday?”
“Shit. Wait, what are you guys doing for it?”
“I’ve got my Half-life mod, you know, the one that puts your family members into it?”
“Oh, yeah. Arsehole?”
“Eh, don’t have anything right now. I’m still working on that thing with Hiro P.”
“Ah, cool. Say, you and Hiro. Is there any… you know?”
“Joey is trying to politely ask if you’ve fucked his brains out yet.”
“The fuck are you talking about? Hiro’s gay.”
Overgang and Joey glanced at each other, then looked to Arsehole.
“Yeah. That a fucking problem?”
“No, no, just… didn’t peg him for that, I guess.”
“Well, yeah. We’re actually planning something with him and his boyfriend next week down at the docks. Should be fun, you guys can tag along if you want.”
“Nah, I’ll pass.”
“I think I’m right.”
Arsehole stood up, pulling three joints from her back jeans pocket. She lit them all one at a time.
“You know we don’t smoke, right?”
Arsehole stuck the three joints into her mouth and walked out onto the patio.