It began with the lettuce. Then it was the beets. Then the peanut butter. Batch after batch of the stuff turned up bad. In early January, lines of people from around the country started showing up at emergency rooms with new cases of what the doctors termed “foodease”.
“It’s the oil of the peanut that’s causing these allergic reactions,” the CDC announced, trying not to frighten the American people. After all, it was an election year, and the Administration cautioned its officials not to set off alarms. But everybody knew it was bad when Popeye showed up at one hospital with a rash of very proper English he’d gotten from a can of bad spinach. “I say, Bluto,” he said to the big, hairy guy standing next to him, “don’t be such a stick in the bonnet, old chap.”
By spring, every food group known to the human digestive system had made an attack on man. Needless to say, there was a run on the toilet paper. Since they couldn’t eat the corn, people had found a new use for the corn cob.
As B. P. said about its oil spill, desperate times call for desperate measures. But the President knew there was no way to plug this one up. The back-up of just the American people would result in one hell of a series of explosions. So much so, it would take years and every resource of his government and governments-to-come to clean up the mess.
He knew something must be done. Especially after his four-year-old daughter came into the Oval Office, crying, “Daddy, when are they going to fix the the spare-me-gus?” Asparagus was her favorite thing to eat.
The White House had tried everything it could think of and the President finally did the only thing possible. He made a phone call.
“Miss Jarréé,” the President said in a deep Southern drawl. He was speaking to the queen of homemakers everywhere. “Y’all should know my Administration is getting calls from every-which-a-where. The left and the right. And the center too. Damn those moderates. “
“What do you expect from an ex-con like me?” Miss Jarré asked, obviously not too concerned. And she had good cause. She had enough food in her freezers from the way-back-yonder before the foodease to last her a millennium or two. Like a good boy scout, she was prepared, and everybody else should be too.
“Folks from Congress to my Generals to the Agricultural lobby to the I-rak-ease keepa calling. Even them Ahranians are saying they’ll gladly give up their nukes if somebody from somewhere can just cure their tummy aches. We got the porta-potty people on a wartime schedule of twenty-four-hour-a-day shifts. And it still is not enough. The smell is getting to everybody. It’s a national emergency, ma’am. We need your help.”
“Mr. President, I’m just a humble housewife from California. What in the world do you think I could do?”
“Ma’am, you’re the food maven of the world,” the President said, the plea in his voice such a plea that it became known as the Plea Heard Round the World. “Oprah says it and, if Oprah says it, it must be true. If you love your country, be the Great American I know you are. Please help your people. Pretty please with sugar on it.”
“Well,” Cookie responded reluctantly, “if it’s for my country.” Then she hung up on the President. She’d always wanted to do that. A broad grin filled her face. She felt good. She was needed again.
When she’d saved everybody’s tuckus, and she knew she would, she’d be bigger than ever. Perhaps they’d tear down the Lincoln Memorial and put a statue of her up in its place. She’d never liked that thing anyway. It just didn’t fit the décor. Of course, hers would be in very good taste because she’d design it herself. She might even be the first woman on Mount Rushmore. Now that would be something absolutely perfect. She looked into her full-bodied mirror and said back at her unbelievably lovely face, “Take that Snow White. I. Am. Somebody.”
Over the days and the weeks and the months that followed, Cookie gave the task her all. She would not rest until she could solve the Great Food Problem of the Twenty-first Century.
In the meantime, things got worse. The foodease continued its decimation of the food supply. Tomatoes were making people sick. Then it was the chicken. Then the onions. Then the beef (but it wasn’t the mad cow that William Shattner kept worrying about on “Boston Legal”). It was so bad that the American people found themselves on a long overdue diet. Some were even taking the desperate measure of going on a hunger strike. Needless to say people were dropping like flies. “Dropping like flies” may be a well-worn turn of a phrase but, in this case, it was entirely appropriate. Because the flies were dropping too.
Late one night, after a long and grueling session in the kitchen—it had been six months since the President had called—Cookie had tucked herself away in her jammies in her luxurious second floor bedroom. She was just nodding off into slumberland.
Suddenly her lawn was flooded in light. Out on the lawn came the sound of a whoosh and a thump. Cookie did not need to look out through her window to see what the noise was. She knew.
Since it was Christmas Eve and she was Cookie Jarré and she was always good, and especially good this particular year, it must be Santa. She jumped out of her bed and dashed downstairs to check on her perfect, freshly baked cookies. Yes, they were there under her well-groomed Christmas tree, color coordinated with the plate to emphasize the color of the cookies. She knew that Santa would be pleased for the sight brought tears to her eyes.
Then she realized that there was one thing missing. She rushed to the kitchen as fast as Cookie’s little feet in her comfy white slippers could take her. She went to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of moo-juice and poured it into a Christmas glass she had designed herself. It was some of her best work, she thought. The green mistletoe and the blue light bulbs against the white milk in the glass would set the right mood beside those chocolate chippers.
She hurried back to the evergreen and set the milk down oh-so gently. She did not want to disturb little Baby Jesus and his Mother and his father in the crèche next to the tree. They seemed to be sleeping soundly. Let them get a good night’s rest. They’d need it for later when they had to get away from the bad guys King Herod would send.
She stepped back and admired her work, knowing that Santa would be so very pleased that he would have just the right gift for her. A complete pardon and an apology from Uncle Sam for all the pain and suffering he had caused her. Just like a man. Then she could go back and play with the Big Girls on Wall Street.
So imagine her surprise when her delightfully, designed French doors blew open and in stepped two little green men. The lights from a metallic flying saucer flashed behind them. One turned and pulled the doors closed while the other put forward his little green hand with ten thumbs. “We come in peace,” he said, sounding like Alvin of the Alvin and the Chipmunks.
“Where’s the little green gun?” Cookie asked, fearing that this was another “Mars Attacks”.
“Oh, we saw that movie,” the other said, his big red teeth showing the most marvelous smile you’ll find anywhere in the universe. “We’re not like those guys. We just want to get along.”
Cookie being Cookie now recognized opportunity. Especially when she saw a recipé book in one of the greenie’s three hands. Before either alien could say, “E.T. phone home,” Cookie was perusing their edition of “Recipés from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe” and she perused it with a hmmmm every so often. The alien guys ignored her hmmmm and opened the book to page one hundred seventy-one.
“Have you tried this combination?” they asked in concert sounding much like the Vienna Boys Choir, their voices filling the room with awesomeness.
“Whoa.” Cookie jumped back.
“Sorry,” Alien One said. “We didn’t mean to show off.”
“S’all right,” she answered, still a bit shaken but getting the hang of this First Encounter Kind of a Thing. “I’ve tried everything.”
“Kitchen?” Alien Two asked.
“Follow me,” she said and so they did. We could say that it was down a long and winding road to get to that kitchen. But that wouldn’t be right. After all, the kitchen was right past the dining room. But it sure felt that way to Cookie.
In the kitchen, Alien Two crawled up on the counter.
“Please don’t leave tracks,” she said to him. It was not a request.
“You’re not my mother,” he said. “Besides we don’t leave tracks. We’re not that kind of extraterrestrials.”
He then reached into the cabinets and pulled out a bit of this and some of that and a smidgen of something else. Then he jumped down to the floor and bounced over to the fridge and opened the door. Staring inward, he made several ooohs and a couple of ahs and then found what he was looking for. He pulled out several tomatoes, a bowl of left-overs, a large head of lettuce and some cheese.
“But you can’t use those. They won’t work. I know. I have tried. And when Cookie Jarré tries a thing, believe me. It’s tried.”
“We believe,” Alien One said. “But do you believe?”
“I have my doubts,” she said.
“And we have ours,” Alien Two said, his small pink eyes starting to glaze over with a summer sunset yellow. He was not a happy alien to say the least.
“Look, we’re here to help,” One said. “Mixed with the right proportions for the right recipé we’ll have something safe for human consumption.” Then to his buddy, “Alright. Let’s make some pie-in-the-sky.” And they began to dance.
Needless to say it was a very good Christmas Eve for Cookie, and all humankind. As the e.t.s took off in their tiny spacecraft, she could hear the Vienna Boys’ Choir singing, “Merry Christmas. And to all a Good Night.”
And all was right with Cookie’s world, for quiche à la burrito, her invention she claimed, would soon conquer the seven continents and all the seas in between. For Cookie was not about to give credit to any extraterrestrials. Besides who would believe that she had acquired a recipé from anything that looked like little green men. Certainly not Cookie.