So there I am in the Nugget, minding my own business. I’d stopped, tired and in scrubbies, for just broccoli rabe and a rotisserie chicken. But a frenetic little man in trendy trainers was running around with iPhone in one hand and parsnip in the other asking if it was a turnip. I figured he was covered when he asked a very well put-together slightly older woman. I know everyone in the story is well-dressed so far but we are at the Nugget. I should go home and change before shopping for broccoli rabe and now, I’ve decided, blue cheese. To my surprise even the older generation had no idea the difference between a parsnip and a turnip. I was raised around people who not only knew but some who grew them in the nearest plot of land. Maybe just on the side of the house.
I couldn’t let the man go home and make parsnip stew or be in the stew with his wife who sent him here. So I ambled over, hands full, still unconvinced I needed my own basket, and told him I’m pretty sure that’s a parsnip. He said there was no sign that said parsnip but I held my ground and said I’m really pretty sure. I walked him over to the root of the problem. Some of you will get that. Found the parsnip sign mostly obscured by some decorative kale and reassured once more, definitely a parsnip. That’s a parsnip, this is a beet, and these two are I think turnip variations but I’m not sure which is which, so you might want to ask. I physically put two variations in his hands (update: one was a rutabega), and he ran. Ran to the man with the answers, or so you would presume.
He came back and said the man, marked expert by his Nugget Marketswork shirt, told him the turnip is the long one. This, from the man working fruits and veggies. (No disparagement to Nugget, because this is an anomaly. An nice guy named Christian later spent 10 minutes explaining that sheep’s milk is why pecorino has more of a bite than parmigiano. So now it’s broccolini, blue cheese, rotisserie chicken and pecorino Romano.)
But back to the veggie aisle. One of my pet peeves is giving someone false information confidently instead of being willing to say I don’t know. But my other pet peeve is being so sure of yourself you can’t entertain that you might be wrong so I didn’t want to make the same mistake and I told the man, I’m really pretty sure he’s wrong but perhaps Google it.
My phone was in my car and his iPhone could barely get a signal (ahem) so we stood there a good three or four minutes waiting for the interwebs to make us feel better. We almost gave up when search results finally populated and there it was in all its purple white glory. Turnip. Nugget man was wrong. Shopper man made a comment about ‘close call’ and how he could have saved a parsnip stew with mushrooms, and I smiled thinking of my mother screaming in horror from 3 miles away, but as he walked away and I tousled through the garlic, two morals of the story settled in the basket I’d finally admitted I needed.
Moral number one is thank you Mom and Dad for raising me to know the difference between a parsnip and a turnip not to mention beets and Jicama. Rhubarb and endive. Broccoli rabe and broccolini (or that there is a difference – I still read labels on that one). Like the night I called from the pay phone, yes pay phone, in my sophomore dorm basement laundry room after watching a girl confusedly read the back of her LIQUID fabric softener bottle before shrugging her shoulders and pouring it on her clothes in the *dryer*. I called the 800 number my parents gave me, yes 800 number, and thanked them for not only teaching me to do my laundry but stating throughout my childhood to anyone in earshot, “I told her if she was old enough to reach the top of the washer she was old enough to wash her own clothes.” It’s moments like this I appreciate the standards and drive that existed both then and now in the Bartlett home.
Moral number two, if World War 3 breaks out we’re all sunk because men and women, young and old, with or without their nugget vegetable section polo shirt, can no longer tell the difference between a parsnip and a turnip to the levels of debate and distrust that can only be settled by Google. I suggest we all find ways to get our hands in the earth. A little dirt under the nails is good for you, not to mention fresh air, physical labor, and the kind of talking God only does in the garden. You might go into it for the sustainable foodstuffs, but you’ll be surprised what more grows out of it.