30 Sep 2010

Turnips

Bunch of turnips pulled and on the ground.
We had two packets of turnip seed in our collection, so we put them in to use them up.

Unfortunately, they're not very popular here: we tried them boiled and roasted, but they still didn't justify their place in the garden.

Yet, before now, I've bought a pound of small ones and eaten them like apples, and enjoyed them. But the ones we've grown now have a bit too much of that radish heat about them.

All's not lost, though. It happened that a duck left six ducklings behind (story here), and they have enjoyed the turnips, the tops particularly.

I think my urge to eat them like apples and to grow them was probably romantic. For many years now I have enjoyed the novels of Erskine Caldwell (the cheap-looking paperbacks you used to see on second-hand bookstalls).

A selection of Erskine Caldwell novels and short stories published in Great Pan.
In Tobacco Road, he writes of Jeeter Lester, the father in a poor family of sharecroppers in the US south of the 30s, and his enjoyment of raw turnips.

A hungry Jeeter is trying to con a visitor to the house out of his sack of turnips:
"I got a powerful gnawing in my belly for turnips. I reckon I like winter turnips just about as bad as a nigger likes watermelons. I can't see no difference between the two ways. Turnips is about the best eating I know about."
(Anyone feeling that Caldwell's use of the word 'nigger' is derogatory should understand that he uses the speech of the people of that day. Caldwell himself was against discrimination and denigration of all poor, black and white, and many Southerners reviled him for his brutal exposés of their region.

Caldwell's biographer writes that Erskine's father, a minister, was described to the son by his mother as "'a noble warrior of the truth' - a man who stood up against the small-mindedness, bigotry and cruelty he found in the small towns of his native region. As an adult, Erskine would make his father's causes his own, and in his writing he sought to honour and vindicate him.")

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