THE UGLY VEGETABLES by GRACE LIN In the spring I helped my mother start our garden. We used tall shovels to turn the grass upside
down, and I saw pink worms wriggle around. It was hard work. When we stopped to rest, we saw that the neighbors were starting their gardens too. Hello, Irma! my mother called
to Mrs. Crumerine. Mrs. Crumerine a was digging too. She was using small shovel, one that fit in her hand. Mommy, I asked, why are we
using such big shovels? Mrs. Crumerine has a small one. Because our garden needs more digging, she said. I helped my mother plant the seeds, and we dragged the hose to the garden. Hi, Linda! Hi, Mickey! I called to the Fitzgeralds. They were
sprinkling water on their garden with green watering cans. Mommy, I asked, why are we using a hose? Linda and Mickey are using watering cans. Because our garden needs more water, she said. Then my mother drew funny
pictures on pieces of paper, and stuck the into the garden. Hello, Rosanne! my mother called across the street to Mrs. Angelhowe. Mommy, is asked, why are we sticking these papers in the garden? Mrs. Angelhowe has seed packages
in her garden. Because our garden is going to grow Chinese vegetables, she told me. These are the names of the vegetables in Chinese, so I can
tell which plants are growing where. One day I saw our garden growing. Little green stems that looked like grass had popped out from the ground. Our garden is growing! I
yelled. Our gardens growing! I rushed over to the neighbors garden to see if theirs had grown. Their plants looked like little leaves. Mommy, I asked, why do our plants look like grass? The neighbors plants look
different. Because they are growing flowers, she said. Why cant we grow flowers? I asked. These are better than flowers, she said.
Soon all the neighbors gardens were blooming. Up and down the street grew rainbows of flowers. The wind always smelled sweet, and butterflies and bees flew everywhere. Everyones garden was
beautiful, except for ours. Ours was all dark and ugly. Why didnt we grow flowers? I asked again. These are better than flowers, Mommy said again. I looked, but saw only blackpurple-green vines, fuzzy wrinkled leaves, prickly
stems, and a few little yellow flowers. I dont think so, I said. You wait and see, Mommy said. Before long, our vegetables grew. Some were big and lumpy.
Some were thin and green and covered with bumps. Some were just plain icky yellow. They were ugly vegetables. Sometimes I would go over to the neighbors and look
at their pretty gardens. poppie s They would show the poppies and peonies and petunias to me, and I would feel sad that our
petunias garden wasnt as nice. peonies One day my mother and I picked the vegetables from
the garden. We filled a whole wheelbarrow full of them. We wheeled them to the kitchen. My mother washed them and took a big knife and started to chop them. Aie-yow! she said when she cut them.
She had to use all her muscles. The vegetables were hard and tough. This is a sheau hwang gua, Mommy said, handing me a bumpy, curled vegetable. She pointed at the other vegetables. This is shiann tsay. Thats a torng hau.
I went outside to play. While I was playing catch with Mickey, a magical aroma filled the air. I saw the neighbors standing on their porches with their eyes closed, smelling the sky. They took deep
breaths of air, like they were trying to eat the smell. The wind carried it up and down the street. Even the bees and the butterflies seemed to smell the scent
in the breeze. I smelled it too. It made me hungry, and it was coming from my house. When I followed it to my house, my mother was putting a big bowl of
soup on the table. The soup was yellow and red and green and pink. This is a special soup, Mommy said, and she smiled.
She gave me a small bowl full of it and I tasted it. It was so good. The flavors of the soup seemed to dance in my mouth and laugh all the way down to my stomach. I smiled.
Do you like it? Mommy asked me. I nodded and held out my bowl for some more. Its made from our vegetables, she told me. Then the doorbell rang, and
we ran to open the door. All our neighbors were standing at the door holding flowers. We noticed you were cooking. Mr. Fitzgerald laughed as he held out his flowers. And we
thought maybe you might be interested in a trade. We laughed too, and my mother gave them each their own bowl of her special soup. My mother told them what each vegetable was and how she grew it. She gave them
the soup recipe and put some soup into jars for them to take home. I ate five bowls of soup. It was the best dinner ever.
The next spring, when my mother was starting her garden, we planted some flowers next to the Chinese vegetables. Mrs. Crumerine, the Fitzgeralds, and the Angelhowes planted some Chinese
vegetables next to their flowers. Soon the whole neighborhood was growing Chinese vegetables in their gardens. Up and down the street, little green plants poked out of the ground. Some looked like leaves and some looked like
grass, and when the flowers started blooming, you could smell soup in the air. m m m
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