by Jonah Newton
Back then, my dad was always in the bio-dome, tending to the vegetables. They were the greatest. I mean it – they really were the best. He had orders from all over the galaxy – from Titan III to Europa V. Of course being a perfectionist he insisted on high quality seeds – he’d get them delivered on the monthly cargo freight-ship from Earth.
I suppose you could say that he had ‘green fingers’ – although, in those days, all of us moon-settlers did. We were obliged to take nutri-mineral supplements you see – and, well – to put it bluntly – they turned our fingers green! The medi-team guys would stop by every season and run their health clinic in the business sector where we lived. And they were always surprised.
‘Oh – you loony colonists –’ Doc Halliday would sigh – ‘I don’t know why we bother. Fingers aside, you guys are healthier than us fellahs back on Earth.’
Then the team would always finish off with the obligatory public address, and e-wire bucket-loads of literature regarding potential diseases and health matters, before blasting off in their sleek red rockets. They were like our crazy cousins from the city – visiting us country bumpkins – the misfits – chosen to re-populate the habitable regions of the solar system.
In reality, we were privileged , since we were out of the ever-increasing fight for survival on Earth, but there were always those who complained endlessly about the dry landscape, the lack of ‘culture’, and of course, the green fingers. The principal grumblers were those ladies from the settlement ‘High Society Club’. Yes, I mean Mum’s cronies who enjoyed keeping the community together with their organised social events, charity work. Mum solved the fingers problem though. She put a request in for a number of pairs of stayflesh™ gloves – ‘…designed for individuals with dermatological abnormalities….’. And so, all was well in the colony – for everyone except Mrs Mackintosh that is. She had an outrageous reaction to the gloves – her hands started to blister, burn. She ended up having to use Snail-trail® cold-cream and to make do with her fingers remaining like okra.
Even so, no-one really cared too much about ‘safe living’ in the early days. Those first-generation settlers (my great-great grandfather among them) just got on with it. They landed in those old spaceships, built those metal shacks, split up the land and began farming. They had cattle back then but, you know, it was just too difficult to get real grass to grow. They only managed to produce this strange moss for grazing the cattle, but it was not the same. The poor animals died one by one, and by the second generation, the settlers had to make do with a meat-free diet.
I guess that explains why we were all such established gardeners – and vegetarian too. There was no other option. I remember once watching a film entitled Clint Chemistry and the Micro Kid. It was a three-hour epic about a rebel technician’s dream to synthesise artificial meat from a Venusian fungus. Shortly after, I went out into the bio-dome and asked of Dad –
‘Isn’t it better for us to eat some meat with our veg?’
He turned and gave me that look and, I’m sure that the moon wobbled on its axis.
‘Why aren’t you doing something constructive?’ He enquired. ‘Don’t they teach you anything at the junior tech-academy?’
‘No,’ I replied. ‘It’s all about open plan classrooms, and creativity.’
‘Well vegetables are good for creativity,’ he said. ‘Now go and get some greens.’
That was his standard answer, but I knew better. The transportation of meat from Earth was a problem, you see – it wasn’t cheap. I mean, shipping thousands of pills wasn’t an issue, but imagine how costly it would have been to send chilled chicken pieces, pork, venison. It was a shame. It would have been nice to have tried a big juicy steak served with whole-grain mustard. But, it wasn’t going to happen.
And me? You’re wondering how I got to be the success that I am, right? Well, it’s an interesting tale. One evening, I climbed into bed, after I’d thoroughly checked under my bedstead for any alien life-forms. I said my prayers, and wished my teddy bear goodnight. I snuggled under the sheets and tried to imagine what life must have been like for farmers on Earth centuries back.
I eventually fell asleep and dreamt I was being hunted by specialist chefs from Enceladus – they were anxious to slice me up for the starter at the ‘United Earth Settlements’ annual dinner. They claimed that I was an F1 Hybrid Cucumber – uniquely created by the cross-pollination of two distinct parent strains, for increased vitality, consistent growth and maximum yield. I was captured, interrogated. Eventually, I convinced them that I was human, and didn’t consist of vegetable matter – despite my green fingers. They relented, and for some time, discussed what to do with me. But they then sat me down and – curiously – several of them began to sing to me. Not so much a lament, or a song of welcome, but a recipe – yes – a recipe for their famous Gurdi-fruit hotpot.
Well, I awoke the next morning, a little bleary eyed but with the same song in my head. And, with the recipe! I hurriedly wrote this down, and made a decision to prepare the hotpot as soon as I could. I scoured Mum’s kitchen for the ingredients – carrots, onions, peas, broccoli, chillies, potatoes, aubergines and, of course, some Gurdi-fruit. I fed these lovingly to Mum’s single-speed Machitex® food blender. After a three-second spin, I added the semi-mush to a stainless steel pan and got this simmering on the stove. I carefully stirred the magic mixture until it had evaporated to a manageable volume.
And then Mum walked in. She looked at me – and then at the pan. And then she took a spoon and tried the hotpot. She raised her eyebrows, smiled, nodded, and then she said she had to make a few videophone calls.
That same week, Mum hired out the ‘Starlight’ party dome for the High Society Club’s charity pageant. And what did she serve? That’s right – Gurdi-fruit hotpot. The ladies were astounded. They asked for seconds – ‘To Mars with this diet’, they said, ‘just serve me up another delicious helping’. And so the word spread. Before I knew it I was appearing on a cookery slot on Lunar Daytime TV – the Crescent Moon Morning Show with Jilly and Ted. It was broadcast across the settlement, and even to Urbanisations VI and VIII along the Sea of Serendipity. I was a hit. And somehow it won me a place on the prestigious Interstellar Culinary Arts programme for gifted students.
The rest is – as they say – history. I graduated, I set up the Man-in-the-Moon chain of restaurants – and we are doing well. Of course, most of the time I am out, hunting for new vegetable food sources – perhaps overseeing the mycoprotein farms, or investigating any new planetary systems who are eager to trade. It’s ‘all go’.
Green fingers? Oh yeah. We all have green fingers these days. Green fingers, green hands, arms, legs. But not because of the nutri-supplements, but because of the natural vegetable matter – mainly grown in the Goatshead Neblua. Yup, we are a race of little green people. Human? Of course. But unique. Dad would have been proud.