On 20 April 2005, card-carrying fatcat C. Barnes Rosenzweig told the following joke to Arnold Martinez as the pair of executives rode to the 99th floor of Business Tower in lower Manhattan: “Say, Martinez, have you heard the latest out of England?”
The ensuing punchline would cement Rosenzweig’s reputation as the least funny man in both Corporate and White America.
“The Queen--they say she’s taken to keeping a vegetarian diet-- only eats one thing: quinoa.” He pronounced the final word “queen-wa.”
Neither man laughed, and the remainder of the elevator ride was passed in silence.
Once considered the leading office funny man in the mid-Atlantic region, Rosenzweig’s star had fallen of late following a series of extremely distasteful Richard Pryor impressions, the fallout from which had included both ejection from a Catskill resort and a famously unflattering profile in “Hetero-businessweek.” Wary of fresh talent graduating from intra-workspace one-liners to big league banter at corporate events, Rosenzweig had taken to seizing the attention of elevator audiences to workshop new material.
Not since the Earl of Mountbatten indicated to the Viscount St. Pierre that his epidermis was showing has a poor stab at humor resulted in such Earth-rattling shock and disarray.
Unbeknownst to both men, their elevator was shared with a third party, veteran journalist Sunny “Doc” Uwazurike. Unbeknowst to all three, Doc had forgotten to stop his tape recorder after an interview with Business Company CEO G. George Quillibuster. Unbeknownst to Doc’s team of unpaid interns--when tasked with providing a transcript of the interview--the puzzling remarks had been told in jest by Rosenzweig and not, as they insidiously assumed, in earnest by Quillibuster.
Thus when Doc’s leading article ran the following morning in The Daily Weekly, it bore the title, “Quillibuster Quoted on Queen’s Quinoa,” as brazenly incorrect as it was undeniably alliterative. Reports of the previous day’s geo-political developments were pushed to the second page. Page six appeared on page seven. Every word in the paper was displaced by revelations of the Queen’s nontraditional dietary habits. Quillibuster’s secretary found herself inundated with phone calls and interview requests, and The Daily Weekly was subjected to a number of strongly-worded letters disputing the article. One such letter, written by one who claimed indirect kinship with the Queen’s chief culinary advisor, named Quillibuster an outright liar and noted the Queen’s oft-cited fondness for pickled okra and salt-fried eggs.
When asked for comment, Doc Uwazurike only affirmed his respect for the Royal We and returned to a crossword puzzle in a well-worn copy of Time For Kids, alternatingly filled in with “meat” and “bone.”
In this way quinoa was introduced to western audiences. In a matter of weeks culinary icons Guy Fieri and Leon “Coolio” Ivey Jr. had adopted its use in otherwise traditional U.S. American fare. In September, McDonald’s introduced the McQuinoa Chicken Dipper. Burger King followed suit shortly thereafter.
Within eighteen months, quinoa prices had octupled as Big Quinoa Incorporated came to dominate the industry with an overwhelming 69 percent market share. Mark McGwire emerged from semi-retirement to break the home run record with a toasted quinoa bat (shortly thereafter to be banned by the MLB commissioner). Elon Musk announced plans to design and manufacture a motor scooter powered by quinoa-driven haughtiness. Even the Fiscal Association of Rabbinic Clergymen and Entrepreneurs pronounced quinoa kosher for Passover (after a shrug of the shoulders and prolonged squeal-whine).
On the losing end of these developments, indigenous Andean farmers faced a twofold crisis: deprived of quinoa--a staple food for millennia--by precipitous cost growth, they also found themselves robbed of the profits reaped by Big Quinoa and its concomitant capitalist sycophants. By 2007, populations of native farmers had decreased by one-third. Only thirteen percent lived to see the new decade. Today, these noble people are all but wiped out.
Rosenzweig remains unaware that his failed joke led simultaneously to the decimation of a complex culture and people, the economic upheaval of several South American nations, and the rise of another factory farm agricultural tyrant. Having regained some former esteem with an observational bit on popcorn shrimp, he enjoyed a successful run at the fifth floor water cooler, commanding at various times the attention of two junior vice presidents and a regional sales representative. Rosenzweig is currently pursuing the printed appearance of a knock knock joke in Antics Biannual, an office funny man trade publication of bawdy and unwholesome repute.
Only peripherally involved in the initial transgression, Arnold Martinez has since engaged a female coworker in a thread of nine non-work-related emails. By press time, the email thread has yielded three YouTube clips, four mildly amusing quips, and a non-fiction book recommendation.
For her own part, the Queen of England was reported to have said, “What the devil is a quinoa?”