iPhone4S, Snoop Dogg and an 85-pound Rutabaga

Harper's Corner
By Jessica Harper
October 2011

"Thanks to Apple, I'm about to become best friends with Siri. Meanwhile, I'm chasing a story about Snoop Dogg's obsession with a history-making vegetable."

One new great techno-tool for those of us who are vision impaired is the iPhone4S. Its voice control software, called Siri, is about to become my (and millions of other people’s) best friend.

Siri, whose female, slightly robotic voice responds to your every command, is like an assistant at your fingertips. Well, she’s not quite at my fingertips yet, as I have not gotten around to buying the phone, but I’m told she will do anything for you. I heard this guy on NPR ask Siri to book him four nights at a luxury hotel in San Francisco with a swimming pool and fitness center and she barked back a list of choices.

Also, if somebody sends you a text, you can ask Siri to read it to you. Then you dictate a response and Siri will send it back to the bozo who forgot you can’t read a text. You want to know what the weather’s like outside? Ask your phone goddess. Siri will tell you. And no snarky reply like, “Really? Too lazy to step outside and figure it out for yourself?”

I’m told you can also ask her for directions (although if you are male you are unlikely to use this feature) and she can tell you where the nearest Starbucks is and whether or not it’s your sister’s birthday and all kinds of things. As long as she doesn’t get too familiar—I don’t need her opinion on, say, whether I look fat in these pants—I know I’m going to love her.

I know Siri will also do research for you. Like the other day when I was chasing an intriguing story, I could have just said, “Siri, get me the scoop on Snoop Dogg and the 85-pound rutabaga,” and she would have Googled the hell out of it and sent me a few perfect links. As it was I had to do a lot of web crawling. It was worth it, by the way, a killer story, in case you’re wondering.

SistersThe story takes us to Cardiff, where a Welsh farmer, Ian Neale, grew the largest rutabaga in history. The gnarly-looking vegetable (also known as a swede because it is considered the Swedish cousin of the turnip) weighed in at 38.92 kilos. Typically, achievements like Neale’s are noticed only by a handful of gardener geeks. But this vegetable caught the attention of Snoop Dogg.

Turns out Snoop grows things too. The video he posted on YouTube in which he pleads with Neale to contact him, features Snoop standing in front of his most impressive crop. (I’m not sure what exactly those green, abundant plants are, but they look a lot like something my stoner cousin grows in his backyard in Berkeley.) While Snoop’s plants look plenty robust, apparently he wants to grow them to “Jack And The Beanstalk” proportions. When he got wind of Neale’s uber-swede, he invited the farmer to come to his show in Cardiff, and then backstage to swap growing tips.

Neale declined at first, saying it was not his kind of music. But then he changed his mind and accepted, and got the VIP treatment after the show. He had a ten minute audience and a smoke with Snoop—no tobacco was involved—and told him to use a product called Root Grow.

While Neale says he “would not pay” to see Snoop Dogg in concert again, he’d happily accept a free ticket (and, presumably, another sample of Snoop’s crop).

It’s a little late in the season to plant, but I’m posting this pumpkin picture (taken some years ago) in hopes that Snoop will mistake me for a gardener extraordinaire and invite me backstage too. (Between you and me, I may or may not have actually grown the pumpkin, but I did raise the kids in the picture, sans Root Grow.)

But I digress. Let’s get back to Siri. What I’m really hoping, when I get my hands on the iPhone4S, is that, in addition to all her other tricks, she is capable of being a sous chef. Inspired by the Snoop Dogg story, I have undertaken to make rutabagas for dinner, although the ones I am using weigh considerably less than Ian Neale’s. But peeling them is really a butt pain. I wonder if I can get Siri to do it, if I ask really nicely.

I’m guessing I might have to wait till the next generation of iPhone for a Siri who can perform that and other services. Who knows what she’ll be doing for us when the iPhone5 rolls out of the factory? Massage? Psychotherapy? Grocery shopping? I can’t wait.

Maybe she’ll even be able to provide Snoop Dogg’s cell phone number.

Meanwhile, I’m making rutabagas without Siri’s help. Here’s how:

Mashed Rutabagas

2 pounds rutabagas
¼ cup half and half (plus extra in case you need it)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Peel the rutabagas and cut them into 2-inch chunks. Place them in a vegetable steamer over simmering, salted water and steam until they are tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Place the rutabagas in a food processor with the half and half, sugar, butter, cinnamon if you’re using it, and salt and pepper. Puree the rutabagas, adding a little more half and half if necessary. (The rutabagas don’t need to be perfectly smooth; a little bit of chunkiness is fine.) Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.


For more articles by Jessica Harper, visit http://www.jessicaharper.com and http://www.thecrabbycook.com.