From The Desk Of The Posies: Winter Vegetables

Solid States is the Posies’ first new collection since 2010’s Blood/Candy, and the circumstances surrounding its conception couldn’t have been more different than those of its predecessor. First and foremost were the double-gut-punch deaths of two longtime band members: drummer Darius Minwalla in 2015, and bassist Joe Skyward earlier this year. There was also a divorce and a remarriage for Jon Auer, who, like Ken Stringfellow, now lives in France. Life-changing events aside, the Posies are back with yet another great album. Stringfellow and Auer will be guest editing all week.


Stringfellow: I have now rounded the calendar in Tours, France; when I moved my studio from Paris to the upper floor of our house, it was mid January. Now, it’s springtime, and I’ve seen part of two winters there. Our Paris flat has a kitchen so minuscule as to defeat the purpose. Our house, however, has a generous kitchen, and I reconnected with cooking in a major way. Every Wednesday and Saturday, there’s a market near us. You hipsters think you invented the farmer’s market and farm-to-table eating. My mother in law, who lives a block away from us, has been shopping at this market twice a week since Eisenhower was president. There are two sellers who have the right to hang the “AB” logo, which means they are certified organic; there’s one wonderfully cheerful grandpa who hasn’t bothered to deal with the red tape that certification would entail (remember, we’re in France) but has put up signage to say he does not use chemical products. Now, you’d need a chemist to prove that, but I take him at his word. You can, to some degree, tell by looking. Look at the impossibly large, waxen, uniformly colored fruits and vegetables at the other stands, and then the more believable items at the organic/likely to be organic stands.

The first winter I was here was a tough one—I was the guy scraping the ice off the windshield every morning for months. This winter was more mild, just one or two flurries, that seemed just for aesthetic purposes.

If you are a European, winter survival means either: a) going to a big box store and just saying fuck it (i.e., most people) or getting up close and personal with the following items: parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes … None of which I was too familiar with. In fact, kohlrabi I’d never even heard of. Here we take a little side trip. It shocked me to discover that all these veggies—cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage that’s green, cabbage that’s blue, cabbage that’s red, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts—are the same plant. Yes, it’s all one species. This shouldn’t surprise dog owners—after all, dachshunds, poodles, malamutes, huskies and chihuahuas are the same species. But honestly, our relationship on the whole with foods is so detached I think most people don’t think of chicken as the meat of a beast with feathers. They think it’s just nuggets that appear in a little cardboard boat. Anyway, I was impressed with the humble cabbage and its varietal expression, and further impressed with its durability. They say the arrival of the potato from the Andes to Europe in the 1500s saved 10 million lives, but I would hazard a guess that Europe as we know it owes its existence to cabbage. A cabbage in my fridge can sit there, unperturbed, for months, and still cook up flavorful and fresh. For those of you who, like me, had spent a large portion of their lives unaware that such a thing as kohlrabi existed, remedy that ASAP. Basically, kohlrabi is a little bulb with green skin, with crunchy white flesh inside. Denser than an apple, a tiny bit sweet, but the with sour tang of cabbage as we know it. Like a jellyfish, from the central nub extend several viney tentacles, and these leaves, like any leaves, can be cut off an cooked separately and eaten. I cook the leaves from the bunches of radishes that we buy. I juice the green fronds of our carrots with as much gusto as the carrots themselves. The flesh of the kohlrabi I prefer to eat raw. The skin is not something easily separates from the rest like with an orange; it’s more integrated (like an apple). It’s a bit rubbery so I shave most of it off. By this method, as a bonus, the result passes the test of my daughter, who has a permanent ban on anything green arriving on her plate.

Jerusalem artichokes—so named not because they were Biblical staples but because the plant that rises from these tubers looks like a sunflower, or “girasole” in Italian—are delicious, if rather powerful fart inducers. These guys are a little more fragile; if you keep them more than a week, they are edible but they get mushy and hard to peel. Better when they are stiff and solid. You have to cook the bejeezus out of them, which I do; in the end, they get browned, and dashed with vinegar. As it happens, the bay-leaf bush in our backyard is not the ornamental kind. As these are poisonous. It’s an actual bay-leaf tree, so I have dried out some branches in the basement and use these with my topinambour, which is the French name for Jersusalem artichokes.

My fancy-pants organic grocery in Paris (in my hipsterville neighborhood, there are now like four in four blocks, and there’s a boutique vinyl shop that also serves small-producer wines. Uh … ) serves up these South American root vegetables called oca. You know how it is.