Fine words may butter no parsnips, but writers have more options. The English writer and poet, D. H. Lawrence pushed the envelope of his day and homeland with his explorations of human instincts, vitality, spontaneity and sexuality. In a few strokes he elevated the deeply-rooted parsnip into literary history with his charming 1921 description of Sicilians, saying, “They pour themselves one over the other like so much melted butter over parsnips ….smile(d) with sunny melting tenderness into each other’s faces”.
A while ago, we were wondering what the Europeans ate before they arrived on our western shores and exported tomatoes, potatoes, corn, squash, chocolate, turkeys and other comestibles to their homelands. Parsnips seems to be at least one of the answers. This cream-colored root is thought to be native to Eurasia, a mere 21 million square miles of planet. It is cousin to the carrot, celery, celeriac and parsley.
Roman Emperor Tiberius thought enough of parsnips to accept them as payment of taxes. Too bad the current governing tax collectors do not value this sweet root to that extent. Until cane sugar was commercially imported from the west, the parsnip was Europe’s principle sweetener. Consequently, this was a vegetable that appeared on most tables in the form of dessert. Post commercially available cane sugar, the parsnip was relegated to near obscurity as a vegetable side dish. At some point, the parsnip fell off the Italian family table, perhaps they didn’t think they could have their parsnips and eat them too. Today Italian parsnips are used as primary feed for those choice and coddled pigs bred to become the famous Parma ham. The French and British colonists brought the parsnip to North America, where it was popular until supplanted, inexplicably, by the blander potato.
To quote at least a dozen folks, all things are cyclical and the parsnip is once again enjoying its own renaissance. Good for us. We have talked in this space before about the parsnip and provided recipes such as Baked Parsnip Fries, Parsnip Spiced Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting, Caramelized Parsnips, Creamy Parsnip and Leek Soup, all of which are on the market website. Today we’re offering Spicy English Curry Soup, which is an easy way to provide a rich but simple meal. It has become a favorite in our household.