ode to an old crock

turnip

Last week I laid a dear household appliance to rest.

My mother’s old crockpot – an original Monier model in that particular shade of burnt orange that defined the ’70s – was declared unsafe by Mr Tag and Test who had noticed the frayed wiring at the base.

We’d been seeking an explanation for what had been tripping the fuse controlling power to the kitchen.

And, my beloved old crockpot became the No.1 suspect.

As it was marched out into the hard rubbish I was assailed by the fragrant flashback of pot roasts past and a simmering olfactory stew of memories.

The rise in popularity of the electric slow cooker marks a pungently pivotal point in Australia’s social history, when wives and mothers started working outside the home in ever-increasing numbers.

In its own humble way the crockpot with its corny motto “cooks all day while the cook’s away” was an unsung utensil of emancipation.

Indeed it was not long after mum got her Monier that – much to my mortification – she took to riding my purple dragster to her part-time job.

Back then most families still had only one car and mum – like many of her generation – never did learn to drive.

The vision of her pelting down the hill, streamers flying from the handlebars, while the crockpot slowly melted a collection of raw ingredients into dinner was my first, most indelible impression of women’s liberation.

But, for all its years of stolid service, there was one ingredient which never found its way into the thousands of stews and soups ladled out from the trusty crock.

The Brassica rapa or turnip and almost interchangeable Swedish rutabaga are surely the most unlovely of vegetables.

It’s not for nothing that the turnip is the root vegetable of choice for comedians.

They are famously beloved by Baldrick in Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder series and, closer to home, were pivotal in the bizarre backstory of a popular ’80s Sydney radio series called Bogdan The Turnip Boy co-written by my very funny brother Tim.

But when it comes to turnips I’m with mum and Marlene Dietrich who did not find them at all amusing.

As a teenager during World War 1, the German-born actress particularly remembered the infamous Turnip Winter when frost destroyed the potato crop and the turnip was all that kept people from starvation.

In her 1962 book Marlene Dietrich’s ABC she recalled: “I was raised almost entirely on turnips and potatoes, but I think that the turnip had more to do with the effect than potatoes.”

It was not altogether helpful to the malnourished population that the turnip is the dieter’s friend, with one-half cup of boiled turnips containing a scant 14 calories.

Personally I would rather eat the cup.

And now, having meandered down this unpalatable path, there’s a mountain of turnips before me and no easy way out, so I turn to Google and find the following attributed to Aristotle.

Erection is chiefly caused by parsnips, artichokes, asparagus, candied ginger and acorns bruised to a powder drunk in muscatel.”

Nope, no help there!

How about a a miracle cure for the common flu?

Late last year it was reported scientists in Japan identified a strain of bacteria in pickled turnip which was found to protect mice from a highly contagious strain of influenza.

Perhaps then this much maligned and ridiculed vegetable could be the next superfood.

Now that would be a turnip for the books.

 

 

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