Food, gory-ous food

When a kid in my Grade 4 class offered me a “purple nurple,” I accepted, thinking it was slang for a grape Skittle. Then he pinched my left nipple and wrenched donutit 270 degrees.

A few days later he asked if I wanted a “hertz donut,” a term he reintroduced as a rhetorical question after slugging me in the arm as hard as he could.

Considering some of the shenanigans that went on in the Buddha’s day, I got off pretty easy.

At least that kid never tried giving me a “porridge pot.”

The porridge pot is one of several euphemisms that appear in the Maha-dukkhakkhanda Sutta, a discourse in which the Buddha warns of the pitfalls of sensuality.

At one point, the Buddha speaks of how the pursuit of sensual pleasure can drive people to break the law, and he rattles off some of the brutal punishments that were doled out to criminals back in the day:

“When they are captured, kings have them tortured in many ways. … They subject them to the ‘porridge pot,’ the ‘polished-shell shave,’ the ‘Rahu’s mouth,’ the ‘flaming garland,’ the ‘blazing hand,’ the ‘grass-duty,’ the ‘bark-dress,’ the ‘burning antelope,’ the ‘meat hooks,’ the ‘coin-gouging,’ the ‘lye pickling,’ the ‘pivot on a stake,’ the ‘rolled-up bed.’”

When I first read the sutta, not knowing what any of these punishments entailed, I figured if I had to pick one to be subjected to, it would be the porridge pot. The rolled-up bed sounds a little too cosy. There’s got to be a catch, like the bed gets pushed off a cliff or trampled by elephants.

The porridge pot? It just sounds like you’ve just got to eat a bunch of porridge. Big deal.

But according to one commentator, the porridge pot involved sawing off the top of a person’s skull and dropping a searing metal ball on the brain. The ball was so hot that the grey matter would boil and bubble out the top of the head, like porridge from a pot.

I doubt it was the Buddha’s intention, but on the periphery of this sutta is a quirky lesson, perhaps more a slice of trivia than a truth, about the danger of cutesy names that incorporate food.

Simply put, not everything is as tasty as it sounds.

That goes for the hertz donut, the porridge pot, and from my experience as a trail runner, the “lollipop.”

A three-mile section of trail in the Dundas Valley, the lollipop is so named for its shape. On maps it looks a stick with a loop on the end, like a candy sucker, but one your son left in his jeans pocket that melted in the dryer.

Running the lollipop is no jaunt through Candyland. The home stretch of the Sulphur Springs Trail Run, the lollipop has the course’s toughest climbs and a patch of exposed tree roots that have seemingly evolved to hook feet and fell runners.

And it’s another example of food getting thrown into the mix when someone comes up with a cutesy name for something cruel.

Why that happens, only the originators of such phrases know.

I’m pretty confident the porridge pot wasn’t the Buddha’s invention. I can’t picture him watching someone’s brain get boiled and saying “I just thought up the funniest name for this …”

So while the name of the guy who coined the term porridge pot remains a mystery, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson once served me a hertz donut.