So, have you ever felt oppressed by vegetables?
Don’t laugh (well, maybe just a chuckle then…).
A few years ago, I signed up for weekly deliveries of organic veg. Great idea. A selection of in-season fruit and veg delivered to the door, locally sourced where possible. Fresh, good quality kitchen materials always on hand. What’s not to love about that?
So, week-in-week-out, the veg arrived on cue and I lunched and dined on the spoils and even made the occasional jar of pickle. Happy days. Sometimes, though, I would struggle to get through my weekly vegetable quota and, if I forgot to cancel subsequent deliveries in time, a certain degree of vegetable stock-piling would ensue. I would always attempt to work through the little vegetable mountain as best I could, given my deep-seated abhorrence of food waste. There were times, though, when it would get the better of me and I would soon start to feel oppressed by its continued presence. The ringleaders of this vegetable-led oppression were cabbage and his buddy turnip.
The Chief Oppressors
I appreciate the potato only as a protection against famine, except for that, I know of nothing more eminently tasteless.
From The Physiology of Taste (1825) by Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Perhaps the author’s experience was based on potatoes such as Lumpers, a variety grown in Ireland in the early 1800s. A piece in this weeks Daily Telegraph quotes Alan Romans, author of The Potato Book, who describes Lumpers as “A nasty, wet potato but with a huge yield … No one would eat it today. It gives a real insight into how desperate and determined the Irish were to survive.” And so we were, clearly!
Searching for potatoes (Lumpers, no doubt) during famine times in Ireland - Illustrated London News, circa 1849
[image from Vassar College Views of the Famine
Well, scallions, actually.
At least that’s what we always called them at home.
In fact, as far as I can recall, I only started to become aware of the alternative name “spring onion” when I got into far eastern cookery, where it was hardly possible to flick through a cookbook without stumbling across a clutch of recipes that involved spring onions in some shape or form. And even though, technically, the terms scallion and spring onion (and green onion, come to that) all referred to exactly the same vegetable, somehow spring onion seemed a bit fancy-pants to me. Scallions were down-home. Something you’d put in a potato salad. Spring onions were exotic and always turned up with their friends ginger and garlic in spicy Asian dishes. As for green onions – well that was just the name of a tune from the 60’s by Booker T. and the MGs…