It's midwinter at the marché. Although you can still find strawberries, grapes, and figs, it's certainly not the season for them. You'll pay a pretty penny plus have the guilty conscience of knowing that they've had to be shipped and trucked long distances, using plenty of fossil fuels, to get to you. If you're trying to eat locally, then your shopping list will likely have a lot of root vegetables, including topinambours, otherwise known as Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes.
Jerusalem artichokes are native to the Americas, brought to France in the 17th century by the great explorer Samuel Champlain. I'm told that the older generation stays as far away from these as possible. During the war years, when food was scarce and people were hungry, root vegetables were a staple, day after day. Worse, the occupying Germans took all the potatoes. Once the privations finally came to an end and the variety of fruits and vegetables available diversified, some of these folks decided that they had had quite enough topinambours, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas for one lifetime. These vegetables are only now becoming popular again.
As for me, I had my first taste of topinambours this week in three variations, one boiled and then fried up with bacon and onions, tossed with leafy greens, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar; the second being raw, sliced paper thin and paired with arugula and a citrus dressing. The third dish was served up for dessert at a chi chi neo bistro in the 2nd, covered with a cloud of whipped cream and dusted with chocolate and hazelnuts. Thumbs up for the salads. Nice try but no cigar for the dessert.
|Points for creativity and presentation; regrettably none for taste|