Yesterday, while I was organizing some children’s books, I came across “The Turnip,” which I wrote about yesterday.
Reading it again put me into even more of a turnip frame of mind.
And I was thinking how ironic it is that turnips are so under appreciated in the United States but are considered so worthwhile in Europe that dozens of folk tales — not just the one about the huge turnip — have been written about them.
Like the one about a poor farmer who exchanges a cartload of turnips for a magical musical instrument which he plays and wins the heart of a beautiful princess.
And a Russian legend that tells of elves who steal all of a farmer’s turnips and when he goes after the thieves they refuse to give up the vegetables and instead give him a magic tablecloth that provides food, a goat who sneezes gold coins and a whistle that dispatches with unwanted guests.
And the one about the rabbit who gives his turnip to a poor family who gives it to an even poorer family who gives it to another, needier family who gives it to the most destitute of all — the rabbit.
Of course folk tales are often about the poor and needy. And the truth is that the rich have always disdained turnips as coarse, harsh, humble fare, fit only for the underclass.
But at one time oats had that reputation too. Samuel Johnson said oats were eaten by people in Scotland but only by horses in England. Nowadays everyone, rich, poor and in between, eats oats.
Same goes for beans. Saint Jerome forbade the nuns in his charge to eat any.
And potatoes, once thought poisonous so only animals and the poorest of the poor ate them. Today our fanciest restaurants serve beans and potatoes.
So I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t eat more turnips. They add variety, they’re widely available and are inexpensive. And, when made the right way, they taste good.
Like in this recipe, which is an absolutely perfect accompaniment to roasted chicken, baked fish and pot roast.
Rutabaga and Potato Croquettes
1-1/3 cups mashed potatoes
2/3 cup mashed cooked rutabaga
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt (about 3/4 teaspoon) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable or chicken stock or milk
2/3 cup packed fresh breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for frying
Mix the mashed potatoes, mashed rutabaga, nutmeg, salt, pepper and egg yolks together in a bowl. (To make mashed potato and rutabaga, peel and dice the vegetables, then boil in water for abut 15 minutes.) Shape portions of the mixture into finger shapes about 2-inches long, 1-inch wide. Dredge the fingers in the flour. Beat the whole egg and stock together in a dish. Coat the flour coated fingers with the egg mixture. Press the fingers into the breadcrumbs, coating all sides. Refrigerate for about one hour. Heat about 1/2-inch vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the fingers, a few at a time, leaving space between them so they can fry properly. Fry for 3-5 minutes, turning the fingers to brown all sides, or until well browned. Drain on paper towels. Makes 4 servings