Parsnips in Spain

I can quite understand why there aren’t any parsnips in Andalucia as it is too hot for this frost-loving root. What I cannot understand is why there is a Spanish word for it when they don’t exist anywhere in Spain and nobody has heard of them, let alone tasted this delectable earthy Christmas delight.

If you look up parsnip in a Spanish dictionary, you will find not one word as in English, the ultimate root-eaters, but two – the Latin name (pastinaca) and a more colloquial term – chirivía. But why when they don’t grow them?

My personal quest for parsnips started a few years ago and, everywhere I travel in Spain, I ask the question. Do you sell chirivia? From Galicia to Granada, blank unknowing eyes stare back at me. Quoi? they seem to say.

For a few years there was a carpet store on the Costa del Sol that had a cardboard box of parsnips around the end of the year. Nobody knew why. They don’t any more.

My Christmas meal was, however, delightfully complete this year as, at the very last moment, closing time on the night before, I found a lone pack of three parsnips in a supermarket in Marbella. I think they must have arrived by some sort of magic. Roasted till brown and crunchy, they were utterly wonderful.

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