Tuesday

The Vegetable of Doom

Mine was 'the frozen pea'. I could stare at them, corralled on one side of my dinner plate, for an hour without eating a single one. I didn't like their colour or their texture. And they had a strange smell: like green rainwater in an old garden bucket. Fifty years later I can deal with them. But let's be honest, they're a little too independent. There can't be a person alive who hasn't shot an 'escape-pea' off the side of their plate. 

I imagine a lot of us have seen our 'vegetables of doom' metamorphose into our friends. Unless you're a hardened enemy of the Brussel sprout that is.



But more on the maligned sprout later.

My brother-in-law's sworn enemy was the parsnip. He swears his mother disguised them amongst his roast potatoes, where they lurked, cloaked in gravy and deception.

You can't really get a more common and garden variety vegetable than the parsnip. At least not here in the UK, and possibly in the US. But when I was living in the South of France most French people I asked didn't even know what a parsnip was. Even when I asked them in French: le panais. Though to be fair there probably aren't that many people here who'd be able to point you in the direction of salsify. And you'll trip over that in nearly every supermarket in France.

But the parsnip is even more on my mind today as this morning I received an invitation to run a writing workshop at the BlogHer Food '14 conference in Miami. I can't think of a better way to start a day! And the title the organisers have given to my session is: Poetry & Parsnips: Unleash Your Creativity in Food Writing. 

I'm not sure where the 'parsnip' idea came from. It wasn't in my proposal. There's the appeal of the alliteration, of course. But why not Peas? Or Pomegranates or Potatoes? Or Pineapple? Or peanuts or peppers or prawns or pumpkins?

According to Wiki the etymology of parsnip is unclear but it may have evolved from the Latin word pastus, meaning 'food'. Suddenly, 'Parsnips' is the perfect choice to describe 90 minutes of creative expression. Because writing feeds us. We feel richer for committing our memories, our desires, our hopes and fears to paper: we make connections between our past and our present. We begin to make a map of our future. 

hungry writing prompt: 
write a list of your hopes and a list of your fears

But to return to the humble sprout and a way of convincing even serial sprout-haters of their charm. Chop some streaky bacon and shallots and saute until they begin to caramelise. Remove from the heat, add some cream then warm through gently, seasoning to taste. Pour over the hot, steamed sprouts and sprinkle with crumbled walnuts or a handful of toasted pine-nuts.