by Hamish Ikin
‘I bloody love capsicum.’ said Dad, completely out of the blue, and on to his fourth glass of scotch.
Mum and I looked at each other across the table and smiled. Dinner was about to kick off.
‘Let me count the ways!’ said Dad, raising his eyebrows like he always did to let us know it’s time to listen up, ‘One; they’re bright red. Or green.’
‘Or yellow.’ I pointed out, and stuck another piece of schnitzel on my fork.
‘Or a mixture.’ he continued, ‘Rainbow capsicum. Without blue and pink and stuff.’
Mum giggled briefly, covering her mouth with her hand while there was still food in there.
‘Two; they look tough on the outside, but the flesh is quite soft. But not too soft, you still get a good crunch out of capsicum… Three; a capsicum is like a drum.’
I put my cutlery down to give Dad my undivided attention. He shoved another slice of the vegetable in his mouth and munched it slowly. ‘Y’know,’ he said, although we didn’t at all, ‘It’s hollow. Like a drum.’
I nodded respectfully.
‘Four; the seeds. It’s like a party in there. Other vegetables, like this carrot, are all business. But open up a capsicum and you find a very frivolous scene.’
‘And all those seeds can make more capsicums.’ I said, trying to encourage him.
‘All the seeds, exactly right. Even though capsicum plants only get this big.’ Dad held his hand around knee height to signify.
‘Hang on,’ Mum began, ‘I’ve seen capsicum plants up to here.’ and she held her hand at shoulder height. Dad looked bewildered.
‘Well that’s not right.’
‘Dad the horticultural expert.’
‘Now listen here,’ he pointed at me, pretending to be firm, ‘I’ve grown capsicum at least… twice in my life.’
Dad got up from the table and grabbed the bottle of scotch from the kitchen bench as Mum and I chuckled softly. He shuffled back and topped up his glass before continuing, ‘Um, five, right?’ he paused, lost in thought.
‘They’re bright red!’ exclaimed Mum, throwing her head back and laughing at her own joke. Dad sat back down, and stared at the last piece of capsicum sitting on his plate. He lifted his fork and dragged it across the thin layer of skin draped loosely over the final fried slice, peeling it off the softer flesh.
‘Five! You can peel the skin off. Like a burns victim.’
‘What? You can’t say that.’ Mum exclaimed through teary eyes.
‘Sorry,’ said Dad with a cheeky look on his face, ‘I’ve had a few drinks.’
I realised how strange the conversation had now become. I giggled at Dad’s expression, and slapped him on the back for making the meal so fun. He had to wait for Mum to settle a bit, gently sipping the scotch before explaining himself. ‘I mean it though. Having worked in the burns unit-’
‘Oh stop it.’
‘Having worked in the burns unit of a major hospital,’ Dad said loudly, ‘It’s very, very similar.’
He looked at us both, and we all erupted. Mum crumpled over the table, knocking her plate and nearly sending food flying everywhere. Dad leaned back and sighed, looking pretty pleased with himself. He picked up the last slice of capsicum with his fingers and held it in the air to study it affectionately.
‘Yeah. It’s not a member of the typical vegetable family, is it? It’s not the brother vegetable or the sister vegetable or anything like that. And it’s not the neighbour, or even the girlfriend.’
I looked up at Dad, trying to hush myself so I would hear the next line. He smiled, raising the last slice to his lips.
‘Capsicum is the one night stand of vegetables.’
I fell right off my chair. Mum tried to say something but it didn’t come out. We couldn’t contain ourselves. Whenever we tried to calm down it took one glance at each other to start us up again. Dad’s drunken speeches were the best.
‘I know what it is!’ He announced, still chewing, ‘Capsicum is the foreign exchange student of the vegetable world. You know it’s not gonna last, but boy is it delicious while it’s there!’ «