Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Perils of the Gastronomy (2nd Installment)

Bottomless Bag of Turnips: BAMFs

It's Northern Europe in winter.
It's cold, dark, and heavy.
You know what these conditions are good for?
SHIT-ALL except for the over-zealous production of root vegetables, tubers, and nightshades. Potatoes, Carrots, Turnips, Parsnips, and Leeks, and...still more Potatoes, Carrots, Turnips...and so forth.

These vegetables are BAMFs. They can withstand bitter cold temps, frozen soil, screaming winds, snow, hail, sleet, rain, etc. and still survive to provide you with your daily supply of flavonoids, carbs, betacarotene, potassium.... They can be roasted, mashed, baked, fried, souped and pureed.

The BAMFs are grown in winter gardens all over this region where the even bigger BAMFs, the caretakers of these gardens, happily share their winter bounty with their ill-equipped, American city-slicker neighbors who are clearly struggling with the harsh realities of a true winter.

One BAMF in particular, our 91 year old neighbor - M. Millet - is most generous.
The first week we arrived, we found a small bag of turnips on our back porch. We were overjoyed by this simple gift and proceeded to enjoy a few of those turnips here and there, in their yummy cruciferousness. Not too many days had gone by before we found another bag of turnips, and this time a few parsnips, on our back porch...

Well, you see where this is going. We couldn't finish the previous bag before we received another, and another, and another... so the bag just kept growing as our creativity and desire for said winter veg began to wane.

Not being one to turn away seasonal, locally grown produce, given to us by the most adorable French farmer you've ever seen (who survived the occupation of his village and farm by the Nazis, raised 12 children, and produced more food for this country that I could in ten lifetimes), I think I've led him to believe that we're actually consuming the turnips and parsnips as fast as he is willing to give them to us. This is a tremendous lie as the bag sits in the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, staring at me whenever I open the door.

This is where the guilt sets in and also why these veggies are so completely BAD ASS - they don't spoil, thereby nagging at my inherently ingrained sense of frugality and responsibility (I was raised on a farm after all). They are genetically designed to live in cold, dark places all winter long. If I were so inclined, there are few places in a fucking frigid 800 year-old house where I could find to put them where they would begin to rot.

So, unlike the oh so lovely spring, summer, and fall produce which has a shelf-life of a week or two (occasionally giving me momentary guilt pangs for not prioritizing its use earlier ((instead of ordering that sushi, for example)), I can quietly utter, "in the compost bin ya go" and my conscience is numbed with the simple out-of-sight-out-of-mind delusion) these BAMFs haunt you.

Every time I open the fridge they're just staring at me as if to say, "Don't tell us you've exhausted your culinary capacity for what we got! It's only January 25. Bitch, you got two more long months and we ain't goin' away!" Or even more condescendingly, "Oh, who's the sanctimonious local, seasonal, organic hippie now? Spirit broken after a measly 7 weeks? Not so easy when you don't live in California, hmm?"

No, you won't win you arrogant French winter turnips. Your cold insides, dark souls, and thick skins will not break me! I have a will like iron. Just because occasionally (read: everyday) I crave an IV drip of SoCal clementines and...light, just a little bit of light and maybe even a touch of sunny warmth on my pallid skin - does NOT mean I'm weak.

Not scurvy, S.A.D, or excessive diarrhea from the over consumption of fibrous tubers will make me waste you and purchase those lovely, plump, brightly colored grapefruit from CA that I saw in the produce section of the Hypermarche. It won't happen.
(The clementines from Spain are a different story entirely.)

I will get through this winter with my health and spirit intact, having eaten every last one of you!

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