Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pass the Turnips

by Amanda Forester

When I was growing up my mom did most of the cooking. Correction… except for my feeble attempts at “yogurt parfait surprise” for mother’s day, my mom did ALL the cooking. There was a reason for this. She was a good cook. She added butter, garlic, and sherry in some combination to just about every dish – good stuff!

Thanksgiving in our house was significant amount of work for my mom. My dad did help with the turkey (he made the cute little white decorations that went around the drumsticks) and he would proudly display the bird roasted to golden perfection (by my mother).

Now I’m not saying my dad hasn't learned to cook over the years. He now makes a mean roast beef and a mouth watering salmon. But early in his cooking career he made some less than appetizing food choices, such as “can salad” which consisted of opening whatever cans he found in the cabinet and mixing them together (yech!). But his greatest food disaster can be summed in two words:

Turnips Molé.

Yes, that would be turnips with chocolate sauce. Wish I was kidding you folks, but my dad somehow took on the challenge of making “turnips molé” as a special Thanksgiving dish. The first year he bought very expensive dark chocolate and would not let anyone touch it. He cooked the turnips, poured the melted chocolate on top, and served proudly. Needless to say, it was with no small amount of reservation that everyone took a small potion to be polite, a portion that was still on their plates when we did the dishes. I can only describe it with one word: disgusting. The worst part was throwing away all that expensive chocolate, ruined by the pervasive taste of turnip. So sad!

Now most people would learn the lesson that chocolate and turnips should never meet in a casserole dish, nor even be spoken together in the same sentence, but not my pops. No, he took his failure as a minor setback toward his dream of creating the world’s first turnips molé recipe. The next Thanksgiving he devised a different concoction of turnips and chocolate. To no one’s surprise it was a dismal failure. This time folks rejected politeness in favor of avoiding turnip contamination. The turnips molé remained largely untouched.

The next year and the next and the next after that my father, who takes persistence to a whole new level, tried new creations. Every year it was different, with alternating amounts of turnips and chocolate. He tried adding other ingredients to disguise his creation, but we were on to him, and learned to identify and reject the dish containing the toxic turnips.

After over thirty years and all those recipes I can say with utmost confidence that turnips molé is just never going to work. And yet… my Thanksgiving dinner would not be complete without a little chocolate turnips.

So what Thanksgiving dish do you pass along, quietly hoping no one will notice your rejection? Which dish do you like the most?

My favorite dish at the Thanksgiving table is the mashed potatoes. Just to show I have no ill will toward most root vegetables, here is my recipe for mashed potatoes, thanks to an episode of Curious George (but that’s another story…).

Amanda’s Root Potato Mash

5 Medium New Potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
1 Sweet Potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 Parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1/3 cup Milk
4 T Butter
Salt to taste

1. Boil the potatoes, sweet potato, and parsnip until tender
2. Mash together the potatoes and parsnip by hand or I usually put it in an electric mixer (don’t over mix or you'll get glue).
3. Mix in sour cream, butter, milk, and salt, adding more as needed until you like the taste.


  1. Yes, the turkey is wonderful and I know plenty of people who rhapsodize over stuffing, but as a kid, Thanksgiving was the only meal where my mom put both green and black olives on the table in a special olive dish used ONLY on that occasion. The big fun was getting my brothers in trouble for sucking the pimentos out of the green olives then putting them back in the dish. We are not a formal family....

  2. The mashed potatoes sound great! We always had black olives and Spanish olives for the holidays too!!!

  3. My mom does the cooking as well, and she makes really good mashed potatoes. I'm anxious to try your recipe because I don't. I can really screw up mashed potatoes. I don't know what I do wrong, but they're always lumpy and usually too thick or too runny.

  4. Turnips mole! LOL. But I have to ask, what on earth made him think turnips and chocolate could have a relationship? I mean did he actually want people to like his dish, or was it a practical joke?

    My mother always made mashed parsnips--which no one ever ate--because she had a notion that a Thanksgiving table wasn't complete without them.

    I don't remember how they tasted. She was a notable cook, so I'm sure the parsnips were well-prepared. Why no one, including me, would eat them is a mystery now.

  5. LOL - I'll never forget the turnips disaster. My grandmother (on my dad's side) couldn't cook to save her own life, but man could she bake! Grandpa did all the cooking but Nanny had to make turnips, she burnt them every year-- I think she boiled them. How they could burn is a mystery.

    I was little and we were at my grandparents' apartment for Thanksgiving. Nanny burnt the turnips again, but we were all excited because she made her famous rum cake. Unfortunately she didn't realize that she used 100 proof rum to soak the cake, so when she got a little too close to the gas stove, the whole thing went up and looked like one big blow torch. The whole apartment building had to be evacuated.

  6. Interesting - I've never mixed sweet potatoes and regular potatoes before. Will have to try that! Happy Thanksgiving!!

  7. Great mashed potato recipe! Mark and I like to mix ours with butternut squash for additional sweetness.

    And is there anything that can't be improved with some butter and garlic? I don't think so!

  8. These posts are making me hungry! I love mashed potatoes, and even I can cook them!

  9. Chocolate and turnips? Seriously? Too funny. That poor chocolate.

    Mom's homemade egg noodles are my favorite. I eat them until I'm so full I could explode. And then I eat some more.

    I don't like candied sweet potatoes. We save those for my Dad and Grandma.

  10. Grace - I have fond memories of running around with black olives on all ten fingertips!

    Terry - Spanish olives? Hmmm -I may need to try that. We always had black olives in a litle dish, but ONLY for Thanksgiving. I do the same thing now, but I have no idea why!

    Anita - I can do mashed potatoes- though honestly I never measure so my amounts are meant as more an approximation. Now gravy is a total mystery to me and I have been banned from even attempting it!

  11. Mary Margaret - I have no idea why my dad ever thought turnips mole could ever be a good idea. I think his first attempt was an honest one, but we gave him such a hard time about it he contiued to try to prove that he could make the stuff edible... and then it became a family tradition and a good laugh to see what he would try each year.

    Robin - Oh no! Rum cake flambe! Too bad you didn't get a chance to eat it - although maybe it saved you from the burnt turnips. At least it was a memorable event!

  12. Catherine - the mixed root veggy mash seems to work out well for us. The amounts are slightly arbitrary, I just add butter, sour cream, and salt until I say 'yum'! Of course, if you add enough sour cream and butter to pretty much anything you'll end up with something tasty.

    Tamara - mmmm, a butternut squash - I'm going to have to try that!

    Shana - me too!

    Olivia - I know, it's a horrible waste of chocolate. (sigh) Homemade noodles sound fabulous. I'm guessing that's for expert cooks!

  13. Turnips and Chocolate! Remember what I told you when we first met? If I had to eat that I'd crawl up in my casket, cross my arms over my boobies and tell Saint Peter to hold the Pearly Gates open because I was slidin' on in!

  14. I have a suggestion. Add some mashed turnips to your root potato recipe and top with chocolate sauce.
    Hey, you never know.....

  15. Carolyn - hahaha - does this mean I won't be seeing you around the Thanksgivng table this year? Aww shucks!

    Cheryl - see now it's that kind of crazy talk that brought us turnips mole in the first place. You'll need that adventurous spirit to eat dinner at my house!

  16. LOL on the turnips and chocolate and I must say am from the school of chocolate makes everything better but....hmmmmm...probably not everything after all. But you know, I might be willing to try anything with chocolate:)

  17. Now that's persistence, Amanda! Oh, I know everything tastes better with chocolate, but turnips wouldn't be one of them. What a great story, thanks for sharing!

  18. I am just so grateful you didn't post that Turnip recipe. LOL.