Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Sunday we were watching Foyle's War. When you're making some historical piece like Foyle's War, you have to have people say stuff to each other that they would probably not normally say to each other, because it's really something that needs to be said to the audience to get a feel for what things were like way back when. So when it is 1944 in England, people probably did not go around reminding each other that it's 1944 and there's a war going on and everything is rationed. The people in the story already know that sort of thing, but you want to try to remind the audience of stuff like that without it sounding like everyone in the story is an idiot.

So in the story there is this old man who's lost most of his marbles, and he lets the chicken or whatever is for dinner burn while he works on a crossword puzzle or something. That way his wife can come in and yell at him for being so careless and lecture him on everything being rationed, etc.... And they could not just go over to the farm next door and get another chicken or anything else because that was their meat ration for the day or the week or whatever and it was gone, period. There was just nothing to be done about it, and they'd just have to eat turnips on toast.

Turnips on toast?

So that just struck me as a really odd thing for a person to be eating. My husband reminded me that people in England like eating odd things like cucumber sandwiches, so maybe turnips on toast was just one of those things. Maybe it is. But I would think that there was something else going on with the cucumber sandwiches, like either it meant that you were well off enough to buy produce from someone with a greenhouse, or you had one yourself and were bragging about your green thumb. A cucumber is probably one of those summer things that you look forward to, but a turnip is probably just a turnip.

In this country, it seems like eating turnips is a sign that either you are from the south or you are poor or both. I see turnip greens in the grocery store next to the mustard greens and the collard greens, and I remember when my mother used to try to force us to eat them, because they had vitamins or something like that. Of course, she served us that awful canned stuff that possibly did not have any vitamins left in it, and since we never actually managed to eat much of the stuff whatever vitamins it might have had was not going to help us anyway.

Ten or fifteen years ago, we lived somewhere else and had a really big garden and tried growing a little bit of everything. And at first a little bit of everything included turnips, but then we really didn't know what to do with them. They look like the somewhat unattractive big brother to the radish, but I liked radishes and not turnips. We usually gave some turnip greens to grandmother, who probably remembered them from the good old days or something. I don't remember doing anything with the turnip roots.

I don't know anyone else who eats them. But someone must eat them, because they are always there at the store. They wouldn't always have them at the store if no one ever bought any, and if someone is buying them then someone must be eating them.

Does anyone eat these things?


Anne-Marie said...

We don't generally eat cucumber sandwiches, the people in Victorian ages used to if they were rich enough to own glass houses to grow the cucmbers in. People don't generally do 'High Tea' anymore, unless its for tourism.
Turnips are more of a Scottish thing, but they are associated with poor people here too. They are good in stew and hash and taste like parsnips, or you can mash them like potatoes as a side dish.
In England we usually eat the same as Americans since most of the stuff is imported these days

dmarks said...

We've fixed "Greens" a few times, but not much. I like parsnips. Never had turnips.

Purple Pigeon said...

Heheheh turnips on toast!! Are you sure she wasnt being sarcastic? or a way of saying ''we will have to eat something cheap now''? I used to have raw turnip when i was a kid, not like for a meal or anything, but a few bits while my mum cooked the rest. Quite nice, actually.