A Celery Talk

Agnet bit into the cool and crisp celery stalk, chewed until her teeth rendered the stalk into a fibrous mass, then struggled it down her esophagus.

“Why do you eat that stuff,” asked Brandt. “It tastes like medicine.”

Medicine might be an exaggeration, but the man had a point. Celery didn’t taste that great. What even was that flavor? Some combination of mint and grass with a dash of antiseptic, one of those flavors you tell yourself couldn’t be that bad. So to double check, you take another bite and discover, yep, it’s truly that bad.

“Not sure. Usually, it’s just there, and I’m bored or thirsty, but not thirsty enough to bother pouring myself a glass of water.”

“I prefer my water without a side of string and my food flavorful.” Philip selected a fine-looking apple from the basket and crunched into it.

“Me too. The dandelion greens they served up on the Border were worse, but I can’t excuse celery. It leaves my tongue kinda numb.” Brandt gestured to the earthen jar sitting on the sideboard. “Be happy to get you a glass of water.”

Elaine snorted, though Agnet couldn’t imagine why Brandt’s consideration annoyed the woman.

“Thanks, but I’m fine. I’ll stick to the stringy water.”

“Not much in the way of vitamins and minerals.” Cull forked a celery stick out of the pan of ice water in which it’d been served, tapped off the excess water, then offered it to Orl. The girl pulled a face and messaged, no thanks. “Don’t blame you, but it works for me as a chew toy.” He took a bite.

“Funny how one man’s treat is another man’s poison,” said Brandt.

The doctor gestured with his chew toy. “Well, taste is an individualistic beast. Not everybody has the same number of taste buds and genetic variation affects how people perceive taste. But celery’s no poison. Sure, it has some toxic relatives, like hemlock and dropwart—”

Jemin looked up from his ragbook. “How fascination because celery was associated with death in the ancient world. The Greeks decorated the dead with wreaths of celery, and a mystery cult on the Isle of Lentos sprouted celery in the blood of sacrifices to the god Chthonos, father of the grave.”

A uncomfortable silence descended, in which both Philip and Elaine rolled their eyes, Orl gurgled a laugh, and Brandt threw Agnet a “see what I mean” look that could’ve referred to celery or to Jemin’s morbid interests; it was hard to tell. Then Cull continued, without missing a beat.

“—but celery itself is harmless. Lest you’re allergic, of course.”

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