Big Radish Is Watching You

If, as I discussed my last post, there’s something odd and unsettling about shalt-and-pepper shakers that look like raw potatoes and that are designed to be put on tables that include cooked food like fries, then what are we to make of a pair like this:

Now admittedly, these radishes (I think they are radishes–either that or carrots that have been out in the sun too much) represent a type of food that it is acceptable to have on a dining table in their raw state–salad vegetables and crudités and the like. So they don’t represent the category confusion between cooked food and raw ones. They do, though, like the hamburgers of my second-last post, represent the confusion between real things and artificial ones. They might appear on the occasional dining table along with some real radishes, thus raising the big question I have been exploring in these last few posts: why? Why fake representations of food to be mixed in with real ones? Why fictional food in a context of nonfiction?

More significantly, though, these radish shakers exaggerate the category confusion (or, perhaps, reveal the underlying ugly truth beneath it) in providing the radish with eyes. Thus humanized, they represent live things in an unliving form, but live things with, apparently, the character and emotions of people–radishes that can laugh or cry, then, or shriek if someone bites into them. While unreal representations, they are a reminder of the fact that real radishes are, really, alive. They may not actually have eyes, but they could still be emitting some sort of soundless vegetable scream as you pull them from the ground.

A strange thing to want to be reminded of at the dining table as you sit down to begin the process of ingesting living or formerly living things. What if your pot roast or your pork chop were actually staring at you also with big cute eyes? There’s a long tradition of inanimate objects humanized, in Hans Christian Andersen stories like “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and old Looney Tunes movie cartoons and children’s books (The Brave Little Toaster, e.g.,) and places like that, and I have to say I always find it a little unsettling. But placing such a humanized, representationally sentient object on a table amidst a number of similar objects one is about to ingest seems downright peculiar–something like saying mass for the pig just before you smack your lips and eat the pork chop.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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