Big Spud

A post from 2013 in memory of my Dad…

I thought having an allotment would make me immune from vegetable gifts.

I was wrong.

Innocent observations made to other allotmenteers, like ‘cracking courgettes!’ or ‘beautiful beans!’ bring hope to their eyes.

‘Please take a few!’ they plead. It is an unfeeling person who looks into those desperate faces and says no. To help a couple who have been on holiday and come back to find their cabbages big enough to appear on roadmaps, I take delivery of a huge head of Savoy.

Dad and I are already buckling under the weight of the supersized spuds dug from our own plot. One weighs 2lbs. Dad, who has taken to wearing 2 pairs of £1 reading specs one on top of the other rather than forking out £300 at the opticians, can hardly believe the evidence of his six eyes.

‘Now that’s a potato among potatoes!’ he says. ‘It’ll keep me going for a month.’

But back to the colossal cabbage, which I struggle to carry to the car. Perhaps it is already developing its own gravity system.

We live in a terraced house that looks bigger inside than out. The kitchen is particularly spacious. But the gargantuan green makes it seem small. The legs of the kitchen table tremble and Mr MS backs away across the kitchen saying, ‘no, no, no.’

Supersized Savoy

I ignore this. ‘I know how much you like cabbage,’ I say cruelly. ‘And as you know I’m away from tomorrow. So this is your project.’

Luckily one of Mr MS’s friends is coming to stay in my absence. Luckily too, he is a vegetarian, which may help.

I leave for Northampton and phone home a few days later. Mr MS and I manage to talk pleasantly for a while, but we both know where the conversation is headed.

‘The thing is, we haven’t made much of an impact on the Savoy yet,’ he says. It’s the same old story. I am about to let him have it when a memory from primary school surfaces.

I am sitting over a bowl of tapioca pudding in the school canteen. All my friends have gone back to the playground. Under Miss Boorman’s hard gaze, I put a large spoonful of the foul spawn into my mouth, where it goes round and round. I try to swallow. But there is some sort of volcanic eruption from within. My head jerks forwards and the tapioca descends, in a vile stinging stream, from my nose.

Allotment humour: sago


I experience a rare burst of fellow feeling for Mr MS. ‘Don’t worry about it.’

Having expected a bollocking, he softens. ‘We’ll try and break through the outer atmosphere tonight, I promise.’

When I return home, he swears they have eaten five leaves. But the cabbage looks undiminished. Perhaps it is evolving, learning how to replenish itself from thin air.

I ring Dad. ‘Remember that great website you found with all those turnip recipes?’ I say, manipulatively. ‘Mr Neep?’

‘Did I?’ he says. ‘Well, if you say so.’

‘Well, now we need Mrs Brassica.’

‘Leave it with me,’ he says.

Later that evening, he rings back. ‘Good news! I’ve found a site with 200 recipes all involving cabbage.’

‘Great,’ I say.

We may have to try them all.

Illustrations by Janis Goodman