2010.12.22 Getting to the root of the issue

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

While walking through town today I noticed the preponderance of homes with multiple Christmas trees. At some houses there’s a tree for every window.

I find this bewildering, not because my house still lacks a tree in any window, but because it makes me think about the effort needed to get all the trees out of storage and to decorate them and then to de-decorate them and put it all away again—for every single tree in the house.

I’m not being critical. I really don’t mind at all. I’m just truly bewildered. I haven’t yet made the time to erect one tree, and yet some people have done it repeatedly.

When the kids were home at Thanksgiving, son-in-law Taylor said something about expecting to see the upside-down tree when he returned for Christmas. I suppose that might happen.

It started two or three years ago when the females of the house were vacationing in December and it was up to me to make the place Christmasy before they returned.

I envisioned a moving tree and I hung our spindly artificial embarrassment upside down, suspended by twine so it would swing. It’s really about the only thing that can be done with the tree; it looks a little pitiful standing right side up.

When I see it suspended, it gives the appearance of being uprooted, and that’s why I was thinking about it today when I read a food article called “Down Under.” It wasn’t about Australian cuisine, as I suspected. It’s about eating roots.

The writer, Jane Kramer, introduces the topic by suggesting that a vegetable worth its weight in daughters must be a dangerous vegetable indeed. She’s talking about a radishy-tasting taproot that the Germans call rapunzel. You remember the story of the girl with the long, golden hair—traded for roots.

Kramer next writes about the mandrake, with a root that has some resemblance to the human form. It’s said to scream with pain when it’s pulled from the ground, and the sound drives the digger crazy.

The first century Roman historian Flavius Josephus wrote that there’s only one safe way to harvest mandrake: Tie your dog to the plant and walk away. Let your dog suffer the consequences.

Kramer isn’t eating rapunzel and mandrake. She’s making friends with parsnip, rutabaga, turnip, celeriac and daikon radish.

Some root vegetables are classified as true roots (the taproot of the rutabaga) and others are storage roots such as the sweet potato. Modified stem roots include water chestnut, cattail and potato, while bulbs such as garlic and onion also make the cut, as far as botanists are concerned.

The mention of potato brings to mind some startling information from Kramer. Maybe the theological opposition to the potato is common knowledge to a student of religion, but I was totally surprised.

Early visitors to North America returned with potatoes after the Reformation when God-fearing vegetables were those that grew from seeds. Hard-working Christians raised their food through the sweat of their brow. They didn’t simply bury pieces of potato and wait a few months for them to grow. That was the “lazy root” or, as it was called in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Devil’s root.

Potatoes were something Catholics ate, and 200 years later when Ireland suffered through the great potato blight, well, tough luck because they brought it on themselves with their slothful agriculture.

Kramer tells that carrots were always purple until the 17th century when the Dutch introduced a new orange variety. She points out that the inferior yam hails from Africa and the mighty sweet potato comes from South America.

To really experience roots, I suppose you need to go out and try digging up some burdock. That should firmly connect you to the underground.

Kramer’s article has made it clear to me how I must decorate my up-rooted Christmas tree. I need festive strands of garlic and bulbs made of parsnip and red potato. A big daikon radish would look good on top (actually the bottom), and when the season is over, we’ll have the fixings for a wonderful New Year stew.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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