Feb 18, 2022

A Few Words Of Tribute To The Humble Celery

Movie- and diet-lovers should adore this vegetable

By Ed Goldman

I‘ve decided that the humble celery stalk is a vegetable to be reckoned with, thanks to certain old movies and incredibly exhaustive research on at least two websites. I put myself out like this for you, your children and grandkids, of course—and believe me, it’s a privilege.

The celery stalk proves to be a scene stealer in the movies “Pal Joey,” “All About Eve” and “The Sting” simply by being masticated in key moments.

Edgy Cartoon

This is not a stalk photo

For example, in the musical “Pal Joey,” based on short stories by John O’Hara, a tableful of chorus girls feel they’re living large when they ostentatiously salt and crunch on a few stalks of celery.

In “All About Eve” the principal actors munch ostentatiously on crisp stalks in a swank Manhattan restaurant and, more to the point, in the general direction of a theatre critic they abhor. The celery is standing in for flipped middle fingers, though not as obvious as it sounds (after all, the film came out in the sterile-room we recall as 1950, when married couples slept in separate beds, both on the big screen and television. This is also the year of my birth but please don’t infer a connection: my parents slept together in the same pull-out sofa).

“The Sting” (1973) features one of those gangster scenes in which the boss’s goons are forced to watch him shovel dinner into his kisser to demonstrate the guy’s power over them (and disregard for decorum, natch). While the late great Robert Shaw as Doyle Lonnegan gobbles up everything on his plate, as well as the scenery, he occasionally pauses to clamp down his choppers on a piece of celery. Shaw was suitably gross in this scene—but because I’m so damned suggestible, I naturally wanted to go out to eat immediately after watching the movie and order a huge meal with a side of celery. I was with my friend Phil Syracopoulos—note to Spellcheck: don’t even try—and we had retreated post-cinema to Musso Frank, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, which still accommodates requests like a side of celery.

Anyway, that’s the glam news about celery. 

The nutritional news is a little more substantive, if a word like “substantive” doesn’t make your eyelids grow heavy in anticipation of tedium—as mine do when someone uses the following phrases in a sentence:

(a) You’re gonna love meeting this guy. You two have the exact same sense of humor;

 (b) I think we may be going to the most important lecture of our generation;

(c) This’ll tell those Fox News people where to go!

Celery has vitamins, fiber, crunchiness, very few calories and tastes great on its own or when adorned with high-calorie peanut butter or mayonnaise, blood-pressure-threatening salt or despicable and indigestible Cheez Whiz. It also nicely accessorizes a Bloody Mary (but skip the Lawry’s seasoned salt if you hope to make it to retirement).

Nutrition sites also suggest that celery is a digestive aid, taking care to warn would-be enthusiasts that because of its fiber and water content, over-indulging in celery may result in your sacrificing a billable hour or two thereafter. No one told me to include this advisory—but as I mentioned earlier, I put myself out like this for you, your children and grandkids.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).