The Curmudgeon


Friday, July 01, 2005

Lentil Hazards

As is well known all over the civilised world, lentils are not to be trusted. This is because they are pulses, and thus largely undetectable without the use of a stethoscope. During the decades immediately following the European colonisation of America, when lentil burrows dotted the plains in their thousands of millions, many doctors took up lentil hunting as a profitable sideline, detecting the creatures with their surgical instruments and then dispatching them swiftly with expert blows of a suitably heavy receptionist.

As a result of this intensive harvesting, the lentil population has declined; and in countries such as Britain, where health care is not a high priority, very few stethoscopes are available for use. Lentil hunters consequently have to stand very still wherever they happen to suspect the presence of a lentil burrow, grasping their right wrists firmly, but not too hard, in their left hands. In their right hands they hold large clubs, with which they attempt to hit and stun as many lentils as possible the moment the creatures emerge from the burrow. Some experts also favour the method of, in the jargon of the trade, "going for the jugular", whereby the hunter places his fingertips, not on the veins in the wrist, but on those in the neck, in order to detect the elusive pulses; this method does in fact work quite well, but should not be attempted by the unsupervised amateur, as it is all too easy to make a small mistake and end up beating oneself unmercifully about the head.

The lentil that you see neatly packaged in the shop is a small orange disc a few millimetres across; but of course it only attains these dimensions (not to mention the tractability common to most publicly observed lentils) after a long and arduous period of factory processing. The lentil in its natural environment is often an awesome sight, and each of the little orange discs with which you flavour your complacent soup may well have been purchased with the lives of as many as four valiant men. It is no easy matter to club a wild, vicious lentil when it leaps from its burrow, particularly if you are grasping one wrist in your other hand in an attempt to keep your finger on the pulse at all times. Many a crippled hunter who began with his finger on the pulse has ended up with several fingers in a pulse thanks to the phenomenal reflexes and ferocious temperament of the disturbed lentil.

Lentils, as everyone knows, are social creatures, and this trait remains very much part of their character even after processing, which is why they are so rarely sold singly. It is when they are alone that lentils are at their most dangerous; this accounts for there being so many of them to a bag. Should you ever drop a single lentil on the floor, be sure to find it quickly or else to drop a few of its companions after it, otherwise the suppliers cannot be responsible for the grisly consequences that will inevitably ensue. Most companies take thorough precautions to avert such consequences; for example, the bags in which lentils are sold have been carefully designed to ensure that it is extremely difficult to drop one lentil without dropping several more at the same time. Indeed, with some later models of bag, which are just finding their way onto the market, it is almost impossible to let a single lentil fall without scattering the whole lot across the floor. Naturally, this innovation has brought immense relief to the public mind.

Because of the violent nature of the lone lentil, the creatures are generally hunted in packs if at all possible. The usual way of doing this is to make certain all the lentils in a given burrow are driven to the surface simultaneously, generally by placing in the burrow three or four tomatoes - one of the lentil's few natural enemies - and then blocking off all the exits except for the one where the hunters wait with their clubs at the ready. The only circumstances in which this method can fail are when the lentils have more than the expected number of escape routes or when the tomatoes, thanks to their notoriously defective sense of direction, lose their way inside the burrow.


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