Vol I No. 7
A View From The Tub

Is being Brassic-odule to be guilty of molecular aggression?

by sinetortus


In an age of encouraging awareness of the dangers of micro-aggression it is important to be ever-vigilant for the new frontiers of danger, and it was no doubt in this spirit that the following exchange was forwarded for general edification.

Names have of course been changed for the protection of all involved in this clearly very delicate, and as they say now,  “ongoing” situation.

The Revd. Dr. Chrysostom Malificus wrote first, in response to a pre-dinner intimation from his prospective guest to a personal hesitation about eating the Brussel Sprout:

“Your prejudice against Brussels sprouts is most regrettable. I suspect it is because in the days of your youth you were routinely served said sprouts in an overcooked fashion, a culinary blunder that results in their becoming sulfurous and thus indeed objectionable,  but this is not the fault of the sprout per se.

Instead, the sprout must be roasted to perfection and not a moment longer and preferably done so with bacon, which of course covers a multitude of sins.”

To this his prospective dinner guest and interlocutor responded:


Reverend and Learned Sir,

Your rush to the defence of the humble Sprout, as the impeccable, and thus needless victim, of a socially constructed anti-vegetative prejudice, is entirely commendable. Furthermore, I must hasten to agree that this brassica, when prepared in the manner you set out, is markedly improved, as compared with the boiled version which you so eloquently describe as “sulfurous”. It is true too that,  in the event of there being no available cabbage, this substitute was as you suppose, both much boiled and much served as was traditional in the English school of my earlier days.
Accordingly, I too attribute no negative imputation to the Sprout itself, as a species, or in regard to the sprout qua sprout, as it were,
However, I would hazard the speculation that I may be among those sporting the TAS2R38 gene variant on Chromosome 7, which has the effect of giving one a taste receptor 2 No. 38 — making one peculiarly sensitive to molecules of phenylthiocarbamide (more catchily known as PTC) which lock into this G protein (Gustducin), present on the tongue surface in such a manner, as to to create and send a strong bitterness signal to the brain. This most likely was originally a practically useful thing, as one of several bitter taste transduction mechanisms (of which at least five models seem to have bene hypothesized thus far) which collectively discourage consumption of potentially harmful or poisonous substances that have a bitter taste. With the slight further twist in the (fast thickening) plot here being that, while PTC is probably not itself actually present in Brassicas, they do harbour molecules that resemble it so closely as to trigger the same reaction in one’s taste receptors.
As an historical by way, I can add, lest  such background information might seem to lack practical utility that, since the curious but highly specific reactions occasioned by PTC were first noted in 1931 by one Arthur Fox and it was also then discovered to be quite markedly hereditary,  the reaction reportedly enjoyed some currency as a mode of paternity testing before genetic testing was possible. 
(Thus one imagines an exchange of the following character weak as the evidence might seem to our modern minds:
Sir, this sproutlet here does not like to eat his sprouts and we note that you do not either, so we think he must in point of fact be be your sprout, We would thank you kindly if you could now collect him and take over his care maintenance, Yours etc.
But we must not digress.)
And so, to resume my wider argument here, while the Sprout may in significant degree be the victim of mere prejudice I allow, I must counter your wider position in this matter, with the claim to be, in fact, a victim myself of its chemistry. I am thus able to enjoy all the privileges and appurtenances pertaining thereto, and most especially that most valuable of modern things –  the status of a victim …
Remember, after all, that I am now someone obliged to live in a state of perpetual apprehension, lest I be subject to physical attack by the deceptively humble looking sprout…… even if only on the molecular level…….
Oppression is oppression after all…… and when we already have the micro-aggression so clearly established,  could it be anything other than arbitrary to deny the molecular?
As to your approach to sin and its relation to Bacon,  I shall leave that for a future epistolary occasion.
I have the honor to remain etc etc