I can hear you thinking, “Well, it was bound to happen. Living alone. She’s finally gone out of her pandemic mind. Round the bend. Writing about a turnip on Writers Who Kill. This is a blog for mystery writers. Oh, I suppose she could somehow poison someone with a turnip.”
Not out of my mind. Well, not more than usual.
On my weekly pandemic trip to the grocery store, after checking the parking lot for a sparsity of cars, I happened to buy a turnip in the produce section to use in a recipe. When I reached the checkout counter, the teenage boy who was checking my groceries held up the plastic bag with one turnip and asked, “What is this?”
I thought the conversation would end there. Having taught teenagers for years and raised my own through that harrowing period of life, I figured he would check out the produce number and move it on through. End of story.
He looked up and asked, “I suppose you eat these, but how? Do you cook them?”
I felt my heart kick up a few beats. A teenager with curiosity. “Actually, you cook them, but you can also eat them raw.”
He held up the bag once again and examined the lowly root vegetable. “Not sure I’ve seen one before.”
When you’re a former teacher, you never miss an opportunity. (Here, my children are groaning.)
world wars. When I was young, he’d always plant a few turnips because he knew I liked them. I’d help him in the garden, and we’d pull a turnip from the ground and wash it off with the garden hose. Then I’d eat it raw, sitting right there on the grass. Some days, he’d sit beside me, eat a turnip, and we’d talk. It’s one of my favorite memories.”
At this point, I expected him to grab another item and, bored, keep working. But no.
“That’s cool. I suppose these turnips are vegetables?”
“Interesting. Learned something new.”
I drove home, thinking about his curiosity. This kid has a future.
As Connie Berry wrote recently on Writers Who Kill, research is essential when you’re a writer, especially a writer of mysteries. Motives, means and opportunities come from curiosity. The study of human behavior helps in the creation of characters and dialogue. Odd, often unusual details catch your attention and lead to questions whose answers you’d like to know. Like most writers, I end up researching far more ideas than I could ever fit in a book. One thought leads to another, which leads to another, and so on. I must stop myself or I’ll never get the book written.
In researching my mysteries, I’ve become intrigued about subjects I would never have known about had I not decided to become a writer. Poisons, mitochondrial DNA, 19th-century houses, domestic violence, stab wounds, genealogy, the Underground Railroad, other periods of time, art centers, and arson. That is a tiny—a very tiny—sample of the many topics I’ve researched to add accurate details to my books.
I left the grocery store and, once home, discovered turnips provide anticancer and anti-inflammatory benefits, stabilize our blood sugar, and increase our fiber intake. They give us vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Turnips are believed to have originated in middle and Eastern Asia.
That poor kid at the grocery store. Wait until I go back next week and buy kohlrabi.
*photo above is of my grandparents and me circa 1952