It was many years ago, during my travels as a reporter for the now defunct Voice of the Farmer newspaper chain, that I stumbled upon an unusual recipe.
In those days, one of my assignments was to take photographs of old homes in rural areas and write short descriptions of the history and so forth. It was during one expedition to Southwest Middlesex that the female occupant of one of these homes provided me with a recipe from the Great Depression, essentially a mixture of flour, lard and turnip.
It may have been that her ingredient list was somewhat flawed. There is a chance I didn’t transfer her instructions correctly into my notes.
In hindsight, though, it may well have been that the woman intended to pass along a message of just what the human body can absorb during times of short thrift – and perhaps have a chuckle with her significant other later in the day.
Whatever the case, the two slices I ate seemed to congeal into an unsavory lump within my digestive system almost immediately after consumption, only to be dissolved with time and a considerable amount of flatulent emission. It was the most horrible thing I have ever ingested, though, no doubt, the unlikely trio was capable of carrying a hardworking person through a long day of labour and was certainly nutritious as any quick search of the internet will reveal.
These thoughts of turnip pie came to me as I’ve considered the many challenges facing the agriculture and food industry today.
Turnips, I think, may about to make a comeback, though more as a side dish with a bit of brown sugar and a pat of butter.
The same can be said for the humble and much-maligned potato.
Counter to what’s been popularized by some within the nutritionist community, the potato should indeed be categorized as a vegetable, a vegetable that’s a bargain in terms of price and for its considerable nutritional content, not to mention energy. It’s also quite easy to grow in a home garden, given the availability of disease-free seed.
Today’s potato industry, unfortunately, is currently in a state of turmoil, although Ontario potatos growers who focus on processing potatoes for chip production and table markets have escaped much of the fallout.
In Eastern Canada, much of the intended crop will not be planted because demand for frozen potato products has plummeted and the same holds true in Western Canada, and potato-growing regions across the United States and in Europe.
Meanwhile, in places in the world where potatoes are primarily consumed as a fresh product, there may even be an opportunity. Only in North America, Europe and a few other regions is potato consumption dominated by processed products.
Here’s what the Asian region director for the International Potato Center said, “We could plausibly witness a reversal in the direction of trade in potatoes, that is, the export of fresh table potatoes going from Asia to Europe and North America.”
Mohanty was raised in Eastern India, part of a region that also includes Bangladesh and Nepal, where fresh potatoes are as important to diets as rice. She said potatoes are the third most important crop in the world from the standpoint of food security and is considered a staple by 1.3 billion of the world’s population.◊