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deerstalker hat commonly worn by fictional detective Sherlock Holmes

Deerstalker hat

I just finished reading “T is for Trespass,” my favorite book in the Kinsey Millhone mystery series, written by Sue Grafton.

In it, Gus, an elderly man, becomes increasingly incapacitated thanks to the “ministrations” of Solana, a woman posing as an illegal home care giver. Private investigator Kinsey Millhone attempts to gain access to Gus’s house, only to be thwarted by Solana.

In an unusual twist, Kinsey ends up grocery shopping for Solana and Gus, heading to the store with a list of ingredients she’s doubtful of finding.

Dizzied by the produce selection, Kinsey asks a clerk for a rutabaga; he hands her “a big gnarly vegetable like a bloated potato with a waxy skin and a few green leaves growing out one end.”

“You’ve heard of neeps and tatties?” the clerk asks. “That’s a neep; also called a swede. The Germans survived on those in the winter of 1916 to 1917.”

Neeps? Tatties? Turns out these names are shortcuts for rutabagas and potatoes, vegetables often served with haggis, a Scottish food traditionally made with sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, boiled in a sheep’s stomach.


A neep

The neep is actually a pretty versatile little bugger! It belongs to the family of root vegetables (think beets, carrots, radishes, etc.), popping up in the produce aisle during the fall and winter months.

Turns out they’re nutritious, with respectable amounts of thiamine and vitamin B6. And if you can’t stomach them in stew, try scrubbing your pots with them! The lowly neep will do all the work – all you have to do is chop it up and boil it in water in the offending pot and voila! one clean pot, coming right up.

oliebollen is a Dutch treat, a deep-fried donut coated with sugar and sometimes made with raisins

Dutch oliebollen

It reminded me of those traditional dishes, the ones my friend calls “comfort peasant food.” My favorite is oliebollen, Dutch donuts deep fried and rolled in sugar. I spent part of last year’s Hollandfest walking around with a paper bag of these, relishing every morsel. Not many made it home, either.

I’d love to hear about your favorite strange vegetable or odd family recipe, so please, share them below.

Speaking of making it home, Kinsey’s plan to grocery shop for the home care giver falls flat. She returns to Gus’s home, climbs the porch steps with the groceries and knocks on the door.

“To thwart me, she accepted the plastic sack and change for the twenty, then thanked me without inviting me inside. How exasperating!” Kinsey exclaims. “Now I’d have to come up with a fresh excuse to get in.”

Neeps on one side of the door; Kinsey on the other. The neeps are but a small part of this excellent story, one that gripped me to the last page – kudos to Sue Grafton for another well-written mystery!