The New Food

In response to my suggestion that the venerable Charlottetown food store The Root Cellar “went all Leacock,” a reader comments:

What do you mean by “..went all Leacock”, Peter?

This was an obtuse reference to the Stephen Leacock short story The New Food, published in the 1910 collection Literary Lapses. The story begins:

I see from the current columns of the daily press that “Professor Plumb, of the University of Chicago, has just invented a highly concentrated form of food. All the essential nutritive elements are put together in the form of pellets, each of which contains from one to two hundred times as much nourishment as an ounce of an ordinary article of diet. These pellets, diluted with water, will form all that is necessary to support life. The professor looks forward confidently to revolutionizing the present food system.”

The punchline comes when baby eats eats the entire Christmas dinner:

“Oh, Henry, quick! Baby has snatched the pill!” It was too true. Dear little Gustavus Adolphus, the golden-haired baby boy, had grabbed the whole Christmas dinner off the poker chip and bolted it. Three hundred and fifty pounds of concentrated nourishment passed down the oesophagus of the unthinking child.

And finishes with:

And when they gathered the little corpse together, the baby lips were parted in a lingering smile that could only be worn by a child who had eaten thirteen Christmas dinners.

If you compare the modern day Root Cellar to its earlier incarnations you’ll find that its shelves are now indeed stocked with pellets and powders, and much of the “food” that used to grace its shelves has been removed.


Ann's picture
Ann on March 28, 2006 - 12:44 Permalink

That was brilliant.