This particularly handsome chap is a celeriac – surely the inspiration for the Ood race in Dr Who.
Root vegetables are overlooked. They aren’t the glamorous stars of the vegetable world. They are, properly, dirty – pulled from the earth (though those root vegetables supermarkets deign to sell are thoroughly washed, air-brushed up). They aren’t the sexy tomato, beaded with raindrops. (And yes, I know that technically the tomato isn’t a vegetable; but as the saying goes, “Knowledge is knowing that the tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.”)
Kept in the cool and dark, root vegetables don’t go off quickly. In fact, some will last for months. This meant that historically they were the staple of our winter diet. And this gave rise to great versatility: soups, mashes, winter salads, stews, roasts. Today, we can fly vegetables in from warmer climates, or grow them in controlled conditions. The root vegetable has gone out of fashion, out of favour; and with it, we have lost the versatility we once had.
Root vegetables are tasty and nutritious; and, for those with eyes to see, beautiful.
When God told Isaiah that he would one day send his servant, who would establish God’s justice, having first suffered and then been exalted, he said that there would be nothing in his appearance to draw people to him: indeed, he would be so marred, so disfigured, that those who looked on him would be appalled (Isaiah 52:13-15).
At his most marred on the cross, perhaps Jesus wasn’t such a gorgeous baby.
When he grew up, he told those who were drawn not by his celebrity good looks but by his disturbing teaching and wonderful miracles that he was the bread of life: that is, that they needed to make him the staple of their spiritual diet, that he would provide spiritual sustenance day after day after day, where spiritual sustenance was in short supply. Perhaps, to these islands – to any land where it is always winter and never Christmas? – he is the potato, the turnip, the celeriac of life?
This Advent, make room for root vegetables. And as you do, make room for Jesus.
Advent: making room for Jesus – in the vegetable rack.