Panais Ou Navet?

The other day I was in one of my local supermarkets with my partner, and I saw some lovely parsnips, which I decided to get because I really love parsnips and we haven’t had them yet in France. Usually in supermarkets here when you want to buy fresh fruit or veg, you pick it up yourself and put it in a little clear plastic bag, and then put it on top of a machine which has electric scales to weigh it and you select on the screen which fruit or veg it is. Then the machine will print off a sticker that tells you the cost of the veg and has a bar code for the cashier to scan, which you stick onto the bag, voila!

I couldn’t remember what parsnip was in French – I knew I had seen it before in supermarkets, but when I looked up at the signs I couldn’t see anything I recognised to be parsnip and then when I looked on the screen I couldn’t see a picture of a parsnip either. So I went and asked a friendly member of staff what it was called in French, whose reply was like “Erm…I think it is a navet?”, which I repeated to ensure I had heard correctly and she said yes. I said thanks and went back to machine, logging it as ‘navet blanc’ even though I didn’t think it looked anything like the picture. The lady then asked if I’d found it and I said yes and thanked her again and off me and my partner went to the other part of the store.

Well, we went back today, and this time I saw a sign saying ‘panais’ which I immediately recognised to mean parsnip. The ‘navet blanc’ is actually a long white thin turnip which was a vegetable nearby. It is very interesting how many people don’t know the names of fruit and vegetables in their own language! I am totally guilty of this of course. I could barely identify a mini-turnip the other day to my partner (who had no idea what it was at all). Any vaguely exotic fruit I am rubbish at and I still don’t understand what the two different types of artichoke there are, I just know there are two different types. I think schools should try to slip in learning names and appearances of fruit and veg into schooling in primary schools or something but it is a really useful piece of information and I think helps to foster an attitude of exploration and creativity when it comes to different food rather than shying away because you have no idea what it is (again something I am sometimes guilty of)!!.

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