It was in 1998, the first time I got reacquainted with an old vegetable; to be honest, I had never heard about Parsnips until I moved to Ireland. Shame on me I know, but this wonderful root had almost disappeared from the French culinary landscape. Related to carrots and funny enough parsley (the vegetable Kingdom is full of surprises, just as much as the animal one; did you know that cranes and coots are related?), it is amazing that one of the world’s gastronomic nations had lost its touch with “Le panais”… I am dying with embarrassment here, as I haven’t even heard of its French word until then. Ireland though, never gave up. Before fancy restaurants and fancy chefs put it back on the menu, often as a roasted form, I first fell in love with parsnip when I tasted it in a soup. My Parisian colleague, who hailed from a long line of chefs and cooks, knew all about the auld root.
Before being catapulted into adult life, we were taught a couple of life saving skills. After lunch, wait at least two hours before you go swimming in the sea, never EVER drink white after red, it takes ten minutes to get a hardboiled egg from the boiling point, spaghettis are cooked when they stick to the wall, how to make a vinaigrette, and, what was going to separate the men from the boys, the sheep from the goats; how to make your own mayonnaise. In a region almost surrounded by water, it was only going to be a matter of time before a friend or a family member would ask nonchalantly while preparing the crab claws and meat: “You do the mayonnaise, yeah?” You knew then that the last task of your right of passage had come before you.
As long as I can remember, there was a chipper, Citroën van, parked on the main harbour. We used to call in, as a family, for a drive and a small “barquette” of chips, strolling along the quiet sleepy harbour. My mother, like a lot of other vagabonds, bohemian chip buffs, asked for a dollop of mustard; so was the way most of the crepuscular dreamers enjoyed them.