A Real Meal Table Fable
Written by S M Chen
Illustrated by Georgia Peschel
Copyright 2017 Sam Chen
At the outset of our fable
Young Bill sat at dining table.
The vegetables he wouldn’t eat;
Turned up his nose at bean and beet.
At beets and beans he wouldn’t look.
When asked to take, his head he shook.
The only thing he seemed to like,
This little lad, this little tyke,
Was, when it came, the plate of meat.
Now THAT, for him, was quite a treat.
He wouldn’t even take some bread,
But passed it to his Sis, instead.
Potatoes came, but they weren’t fries;
He passed them on and rolled his eyes.
Though slightly sweet the fruit dessert,
He would not eat it, would not flirt
With food that was so flat and bland;
Pushed it away with hasty hand.
First his mother tried to coax him;
Cajoled and wheedled, then got grim;
Grim in a way he’d seen before;
That told him she was really sore;
Spoke to him about eating right,
And mentioned starving kids, whose plight
Was to have no food — day or night.
She raised her voice, but didn’t smite.
Bill knew she wouldn’t smite, and so
No fear of smiting did he show.
His father, with a sober face,
Excused him from his eating place.
His sister hid her face, but he
Could see her overcome with glee.
So overcome with glee was she
To see her brother’s misery.
His mother said to him, “Young man,
Go to your room!” So off Bill ran.
Tears streaming down his little face,
He entered his own private space.
Bill threw himself down on the bed,
Feeling sad and a little dread.
What followed tears was welcome sleep.
Sleep after weep is often deep.
He found himself shipwrecked at sea,
Mostly alone, no company.
All other passengers had drowned.
There was nobody else around.
Bill then spied something moving there:
His faithful dog, a dog named Bear.
Bear swam to him; Bill hugged his pet.
Though overjoyed, they both were wet.
Bill clung for hours to wooden plank;
Watched the ship as it slowly sank.
It sank from view beneath a wave.
It sank into a liquid grave.
Bill floated long, he floated far;
His feet then struck a sandy bar.
Struggling to shore, Bill then passed out.
When he awoke, he gave a shout.
But there was none who answered him.
His outlook seemed to be quite grim.
Bear licked his face, as if to say,
“Don’t worry, Bill, we’ll be OK.”
Then up to Bill there crawled a crab.
Its colors were quite bright, not drab.
And, unlike other crabs he’d known,
It did not want to be alone.
It seemed to want to be his friend;
A claw of friendship did extend.
Though hungry, cold, and very damp,
Bill walked a bit, then spied a lamp.
In sand, half buried, there it lay.
How it got there he could not say.
Picking it up, he rubbed his hand
Across the lamp to clear the sand.
A spire of fog began to rise.
He dropped the lamp in great surprise.
The fog soon blended with the air
Such that the fog was everywhere.
Bear started barking, as dogs do.
Of what he sensed there was no clue.
From depths of fog there came a sound -
A sound that left the boy spellbound.
A Voice so deep, so strong, yet mild,
It didn’t frighten him — a child.
It said, “One wish you get to make.”
Then everything began to quake.
The boy fell down upon his knees,
Hid his face, and cried, “Oh please!
Do not be angry with me! Yet
I think three wishes I’m to get.”
“I’m not your usual genie, lad,
To get one wish you should be glad.”
The earth by now had stopped its quake.
Bill said, “I know the wish I’ll make.”
“Please take me home!” He loudly cried.
No time he needed to decide.
“Though I am grateful that we met,
I’m oh so hungry, cold and wet.”
Replied the Voice, “Before you go,
There’s something that you need to know:
“The way you eat is really sad,
And bothers both your Mom and Dad.
“Listen to what I have to say
Before I send you on your way.
“Of the few things you like to eat,
One thing you really like is meat.
Some meat is ‘red’ and some is ‘white’
(Poultry has got both dark and light).
“Red meats include both beef and lamb,
As well as bacon, pork and ham.
Some are fat, and some may be lean;
While some fit somewhere in between.”
Billy sat down, his face in hand,
Surrounded by a sea of sand.
His faithful dog stayed close beside.
No effort made the crab to hide.
“Almost anything you can name
Is sometime, somewhere, used as ‘game.’
If it’s got wings, or fins, or legs,
And bears live young or hatches eggs;
“Burrows, slithers, hops or runs,
Likes sunlight or daytime shuns;
You can be sure someone has tried
To eat the creature, raw or fried;
Roasted, poached, sautéed or boiled;
Or stewed or steamed, baked or broiled.”
“Yuck!” said the boy, making a face,
Wishing he were in other place.
“Paws of bear and legs of frog;
Brain of monkey, parts of dog;
At this, the ears of Bear perked up.
No one on him was going to sup.
“Liver, kidneys, gut and tongue
(Most are better if they’re young);
Chocolate-covered ants and such;
Stuff some people wouldn’t touch;
You can eat them with delight
If you don’t lose your appetite.”
“I think mine’s gone,” the boy replied,
Shifting his weight from side to side.
“But eating meat is not required
To keep you from becoming tired;
To grow and have the strength you need,
The stamina, as well as speed.
“In fact your health may be just fine
If, when you sit, about to dine,
You give a smile as you say, ‘Please
Pass me some of those tasty peas.
‘And while you’re at it, pass the corn;
For chewing corn my teeth were born.
Spinach, broccoli and kale -
I’ll eat them all, without fail.
“’Tomatoes, onions, lettuce too;
I’ve heard that they’re all good for you.
‘Asparagus I like to bite,
And eggplant, if it’s done just right.’”
“And carrot sticks are great to munch,
As are radishes, by the bunch;
And cucumbers, when you slice them,
Beets and turnips, when you dice them.
“Hey, just a minute,” said the boy.
“Most of that stuff I don’t enjoy.”
“Celery sticks are hard to beat,
Though you can’t chatter while you eat.
Potatoes are a favorite dish,
Fixed almost any way you wish.
“I eat collard and mustard greens,
Cabbage, peppers, and string beans.
The lowly squash I’ll not forget;
I like most vegetables I’ve met.
“Though Brussels sprouts and chard that’s Swiss
Are also fine, I will say this:
With vegetables, one may assume
It’s hard to beat a good legume -
Such as lentil, pea, and bean
(Some are brown and some are green).
“With veggie colors, a good rule
Is: ‘Green and yellow are real cool.’
Soy’s high in protein, low in fat,
And helps to keep your tummy flat.
Soy is the main thing in the shake
That body builders often take.”
“I’m so hungry I’d eat a horse.”
Added Bill, “Just joking, of course.”
“To vegetables you should add
Some other stuff that’s not so bad -
Like bread that’s made from whole wheat grain,
Or rice that’s brown — at least in main.
“And dishes made from nuts and seeds
(There are many kinds and breeds:
Almond, walnut and cashew,
Pecan and pine, to name a few).
“If you cannot be a ‘nutter,’
You can still eat peanut butter.
It’s great in celery sticks or spread
With jam, or all alone, on bread.”
“Now, I like that,” the boy piped up.
“Along with milk, in my own cup.”
“And lots of different kinds of grain
Are good for you — so don’t abstain.
Barley, wheat germ, oats and bran,
Cornmeal and grits — get all you can.
Oatmeal, cream of wheat, and ilk
All can be taken with milk.”
The boy shivered and said, “Oh please,
Can’t you finish before I freeze?”
Bill felt a sudden blast of heat.
Never had heat felt quite so sweet.
Faster than the blink of eye,
His clothes, once wet, now were dry.
He looked at Bear, who, too, looked dry.
Of relief Bill let out a sigh.
The crab clung to Bill’s leg, and yet
A crab minds not if it gets wet.
“As I think you might suspect,
There’s one more group we can’t neglect.
“Fruit is not only good for you,
It usually is tasty, too.
“Though apple-eating, one a day,
May not the doctor keep away,
It is good for matters dental;
In no way is detrimental.
“Bananas are among the best,
They’re so easy to digest.
Easy to peel, easy to eat
(Just don’t leave the peel at your feet!)
“Of berries, there’re so many kinds;
I am just glad they don’t have rinds.
Can you imagine how it’d feel?
You want to eat — you’ve got to peel.
“It wouldn’t hurt to name a few:
Berry — boysen-, black-, and blue-,
Berry — huckle-, straw-, and dew-
(Don’t some of these sound good to you?)”
“They sure sound good now,” said the lad.
“I shouldn’t have made my mother mad.”
“Despite its many kinds, the grape
Has quite a universal shape.
Some are seedless, some have seed
(For seeds I find I have no need).
“While grapes are often white or red.
A raisin is a grape that’s dead;
(Just as a prune was once a plum)
Please, by the way, don’t look so glum!
“And melons are a tasty bunch,
Whether for dinner or for lunch.
Of melon, there are many type
(They’re best if eaten when just ripe):
Casaba, Crenshaw, honeydew,
Water- and musk- are but a few.
“Citrus fruits deserve attention.
Illness comes from their abstention.
“Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, too;
And tangerines are good for you.
“Other fruit, which hang by twig,
Include the apricot and fig;
Coconut, cherry, date and pear
(Some are common, some are rare),
“Papaya, passion fruit and quince;
(Raw persimmon will make you wince).
Pineapple, guava, kiwi, peach -
Unique flavor is found in each.”
The boy sat down, began to cry,
“I’m so hungry I think I’ll die!”
He then looked down; above his feet
Were many fruit, and loaf of wheat.
“Eat if you wish, but have no doubt,”
The Voice intoned, “You’ll hear me out.
“Pardon me; I hate to quibble;
Could you for Bear make some kibble?”
Like magic it appeared for Bear,
Though Bill did not know how or where.
The crab? It did a little jig
And juggled fruit — grape, melon, fig.
“By eating veggies, fruits, and grain,
Proper nutrients you will gain.
Think: High in fiber, low in fat,
And low in salt is where it’s at.
Doctors tell us (they should know)
This diet is the way to go.
“’But,’ you may say, as well you might,
‘For meat I’ve got an appetite.
‘If no one else is really harmed,
‘Then why should I become alarmed?’”
“That’s a good point,” replied the boy.
“’Cuz meat I really do enjoy.”
“For every piece of meat you taste,
Some creature’s life is laid to waste.
A hamburger, a chicken thigh,
Meant some animal had to die.
“Someone’s father, or its mother,
Maybe sister, or its brother,
Son or daughter, or maybe friend,
They all came to a dismal end.
“And though their death may seem humane,
Do you not think they suffer pain?
Does enjoyment of that steak
Justify the life you take?”
“I never thought of it that way,”
Said the boy as he munched away.
Bear moved about as if in fret.
The eyes of crab got big and wet.
“And also, on this planet Earth,
Of fertile land there is a dearth.
The pastures in which cattle graze
If used for crops, like wheat or maize,
“Would feed more mouths at harvest time
By far, in grain, than beef that’s prime.
It takes some years to grow one cow;
Sure more than grain, I will avow.
“And in those years, how many crops
Could be shipped to grocery shops?
If we could learn to eat less meat
There’d be more food for all to eat.”
At this juncture the boy said, “Voice,
It sounds as if I’ve got a choice.
But is there reason for alarm?
Need I fear meat will do me harm?”
“The answer is, I’m sad to say,
One that may cause you some dismay.
You take some risks in eating meat
You do not, say, in eating wheat.
“For one, red meat is high in fat
(recall Jack Sprat refrained from that).
Fat goes into your arteries
And may cause stroke and heart disease.
“While it may take many a year
For such diseases to appear,
Once you get them, they may either
Kill or damage. You want neither.
“Why have trouble when you walk,
Or sound garbled when you talk?
Why have chest pain that keeps you
From doing things you want to do?
If you can eat in such a way
That such troubles remain away.”
“I never knew that,” the boy said,
Starting to feel a sense of dread.
“Cancer is another cause of
Death of friends and of those we love.
If lots of red meat you do eat,
Your pleasure may be bittersweet.
“Cancer may be your final due;
There may not be a cure for you.
“When a creature goes to slaughter,
They don’t check it like they ought to.
“If it has what may be cancer,
That’s cut out — but that’s no answer.
The carcass that is then passed through
You’d likely shun — if you but knew.”
“How could I know?” the young boy asked.
“You can’t,” replied the Voice. “It’s masked.
Like human beings, creatures will,
From time to time, become quite ill.
Now if that animal should die
And I eat part of it, then I
“Take what disease it had, in me,
And it’s quite easy to foresee
My getting sick, just like the beast
Of whose body I made a feast.”
“Now is a good time, in your youth
To learn a saying with some truth:
‘Humans are indeed what they eat.’
And I assure you — no deceit -
‘Your diet can be quite complete
Even if you do not eat meat.”
The Voice then said, “Now off you go,
And don’t forget what you now know.”
Bear had a smile, if dogs can smile.
It stayed on him a little while.
The crab waved orange claw at friend
To bid adieu, as all things end.
The lamp and fog vanished from view.
Of their presence remained no clue.
The boy awoke, vowed then and there
To eat vegetarian fare.
He grew to be a healthy man
And never had that dream again.
S M Chen has a longstanding interest in health matters. During hay fever season, he wonders if the plant kingdom knows he is an herbivore and is telling him it’s payback time. He lives in California.
Georgia Peschel (http://www.georgiatoons.com) is the mother of a wonderful son. Along with illustrating children’s books, she enjoys volunteer work, painting murals for both the private and public sector, and is an accomplished cartoonist. She lives near Toronto, Canada.