While reading through Foodways, I discovered that turnips were one of the main Southern vegetables. What tickled me about this is that while I grew up partially in the South (bounced between Baltimore, MD and Chattanooga, TN) and I ate turnips, I never thought of turnips as Southern.
Here’s why: my father’s mom, my grandmother, my halmoni, is Korean. When my grandfather, my hal-abeoji, was stationed near the DMZ in South Korea in the early 1960s as a classified courier, he met my halmoni and brought her back. My halmoni learned everything she knows about American culture from soap-operas and everything she knows about American cooking from my hal-abeoji’s mother who was a true Southern woman. I grew up on a fantastic blend of kimchi, rice and seaweed, buttermilk biscuits, and fried fish. So, when my halmoni cooked turnips, she made kimchi out of them. For those unfamiliar with the dish, kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made out of various pickled vegetables. The vegetables of choice are stuffed in jars with fish, garlic, vinegar, and more red pepper than anyone ever needs and then let to ferment. It’s glorious, and it means that turnips were always a Korean dish for me rather than a Southern one. Although, I do associate my halmoni’s cooking with Chattanooga, TN, so maybe it’s a little bit of both.