TURNIP SOUP

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The climate seemed to have changed a lot over the last few years. It used to be cool in Spring and Autumn, and only hot (or warmish really) in summer. Now  it was sweltering all the time. Sarah had always wanted a rose garden, and in the old days she had had one. The roses’ names were as good as their perfumes: Peace, Ingrid Bergman, Blue Moon. She used to tend  each of them and inhale the messages they sent. Then gradually the roses all sickened as the heat became more intense. They were not bred for the infernos that the summers had become. They could only flourish in specially cooled greenhouses. 

 

Well, you had to adapt and be phlegmatic, even if it was not in your nature. Sarah began to grow vegetables instead. Rows of sweetcorn, serried ranks of tomatoes, peppers that would flourish outside. But that was not what Sarah yearned for. She wanted turnips, the little ones that smelled so earthy and had green tops. She procured some seeds and  set them to their work. All seemed well at first. They grew and grew: but when harvested, they were as hard as iron. They seemed petulant. Here we are, they seemed to say: eat us at your peril. We’ll break your teeth for sure.

 

Dolefully Sarah looked at her harvest. They looked like a pile of cannonballs. She thought back to a scene in a novel she had loved once, when Tess Durbeyfield, adrift and disgraced, procured a winter job as a farm-hand and was set to gather turnips. The wind and sleet lashed her when she grubbed them up, and later, as she sat in the open barn soaked to the skin, she chopped them a little for market. Sarah realised then that turnips only flourished in inclement weather, and that someone like poor Tess had to suffer in the cold in order for them to arrive  on your plate. Turnips were not the food for the new desert conditions. 

 

Nonetheless she longed for them. She looked at her harvest, peeled them and cut them up into pieces with a miniature axe. She made some rich stock and boiled the turnips in it for hours and hours. She added herbs and spices. Gradually, gradually, the turnips were breaking down. They did it with bad grace, but in the end they made a silky, smooth soup. And as Sarah ate it, she was reminded of the times when the cold wind whistled over the fields and made your eyes run. Those days would not come again. But you could still reconstruct their taste and their smell, by dint of effort and desire.

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