Turn the Turnip to Good Account

Rock Island, IL

The turnip (Brassica rapa), though round and firm and white and beautifully suited to the hand, is not one of the jewels in the crown of creation. On this point you can even get dimwits, halfwits, dipshits, and neocons to agree with you. Given the choice between turnips and new potatoes—especially at this time of year—most semi- to quasi-rational creatures will prefer new potatoes. I’ve even seen one of Patrick Deneen’s old girlfriends do it.

(Allowances must be made for shaved raw turnips added to salads and also for lightly salted raw thin turnip slices—both excellent so far as turnips go.)

I say nothing here of the turnip green, which is very good for you, as are almost all bitter and vile-tasting things the earth brings forth. Desperation may drive us to them, but for now I will maintain that God gave us the turnip green only to teach us how to shoot Groundhogs.

(How: in the country, with a .22. In the city, where the discharging of firearms is somewhat frowned upon (because illegal), with an air rifle amply loaded with field pellets, or with the back side of a shovel thunderously applied to the head—the Groundhog’s head. Be sure, however, whether in county or city, that the fat bastard garden thief you’ve just plugged (or bludgeoned) isn’t going to waddle off and die under a deck or a nearby shed or—God forbid!—the front porch. Putrefying flesh is unpleasant and puts one to thinking about such lethal combinations as bad hair and gubernatorial corruption, and at any rate you’ll never get to the carcass in time to make woodchuck stew, which is gamey, to be sure, but better than the NBA (Not Basketball Anymore) finals.

And yet the turnip itself can be turned to good account, as is suggested by the sheer proliferation of turnip recipes proffered by Turnip Loyalists, who are well-meaning individuals, if slightly north-northwest in their orientation.

Why bother turning the turnip to good account? Because it is important to eat in season.

Why? Because soon enough everyone (everyone who’s left) will have to eat in season.

Why? Because transporting food long distances is (in addition to being a mistake) a luxury of the age of cheap oil, which is all but over. So learn to localize and seasonalize. It can be done.

Now how to turn the turnip to good account. That’s the sticking point. I’m going to suggest a way. I hope that doing so—am I masking the desperation well enough?—will encourage others to part with their own successes with the turnip.

For the turnip, truth be told, though lovely, is like a student you don’t hold out much hope for but who somehow manages to turn himself to good account. (Himself? Am I a sexist turnip-fed pig? No! It is more often a he than a she whom you don’t hold out much hope for. Look for a future piece on The Average Undergraduate Male.)

Step One: Divert your attention from the fact that you’re trying to turn a turnip to good account. Diversion is key, like when a colleague starts talking in a committee meeting and, to make the trial bearable, you force yourself to think of something even more unpleasant, like chewing on tin foil or watching a Tom Cruise movie or reading Sylvia Plath.

So put on some contemporary “Christian” “music”—something by someone who was raised by wolves (I know—narrow it down, please!). Soon you’ll long for the end of the noise so that the chewing and swallowing may commence. Pour yourself a drink (never, except during liturgical fasts, deny yourself this), but make it unpleasant. Miller Lite will do if you can get your hands on some without actually having to part with money, gold, or favors, like loaning your pickup truck. A dirty vodka martini (an abomination to God the Father and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost) will also do.

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