Dr. Strangeveg or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Swede
Ok everyone, we need to talk about swede...awkward, I know.
The bleak mid-winter is upon us which means root vegetables galore. Everyone loves a carrot. It's hard to complain about a crimson beetroot or fluffy potato, yet, when you hear the s-word, does your heart sink a little? Do you resign yourself to seeing it lurking in the back of the fridge for weeks, sulking and neglected? Yeah, me too.
In full honesty, this LG writer originally hails from across the pond, and until I moved to the UK, I thought a Swede was someone from Sweden. The first time I encountered one in my bag, I was baffled. I had to Google it. It's called a Rutabaga in America (seriously, can we all agree on one name for things??) and guess what, the name derives from the Swedish word rotabagge, from rot (root) + bagge (lump, bunch). Mmmm a root lump bunch. That sounds appetizing.
Yet, in my commitment to eating local, seasonal vegetables, I persisted with my swede. It's not that I disliked it. It was just different and something I had never tried. It was spicy, sweet, earthy, bitter all at once, and there was also...so much of it. I used to pride myself saying that I never met a vegetable that I didn't like, but swede was testing my resolve. We were frenemies at best. I'd finally use one all up, only to have another arrive and my swede shame spiral begin all over again.
Everything changed the day I received a copy of Nourish Cakes and I found a recipe for swede cake. I grated up half a root lump bunch, mixed in eggs and flour, sprinkled in the seasonings, and set it in the oven to bake, highly skeptical that this would actually taste good. Half an hour later, my kitchen smelled like Christmas. The cake was rich with cinnamon, vanilla, subtly sweet and impressively edible. Other people ate it and had no idea there was swede in it. This was the future for our relationship - disguise the swediness of swede into other things and learn to love it. I've added it to a mash with potatoes and enough garlic to keep loved ones at bay for days. I've added it to soups brimming with so many other lovely roots and herbs that it passes unnoticed by my tastebuds. To misquote Julia Child, anything tastes good if you add enough butter / cream / cheese / garlic.
Sharing my swede success back at the arch, I learned that one of the LG volunteers genuinely loves a swede! Digging into it a bit more, I learned that the humble swede sustained masses through many a famine, was a reliable staple in the Victory gardens of World War II, and generally has always been there to eat when there wasn't anything else. Many a Scot may be having it in their "neeps and tatties" this Burns Night; residents in upstate New York use them in an annual curling competition; and the Irish used to carve them into lanterns around Halloween. No joke. It's on Wikipedia, so must be true.
I'm not queuing for swede by the bushel, but I do feel we've made peace. I'm okay when its bulky form appears in my weekly bag and ready for the culinary challenge. Next time the stoic swede, or any other vegetable you're not particularly keen on, pops up, think of how you can make it more enjoyable. After all, there is someone out there who actually likes it, and someone else who would be grateful to have it.