Peppery Parsnip Fries, and the Things We Learn by Listening

Peppery Parsnip Fries

You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s one of those truisms that applies to so many situations in life.

When I was a new journalist, learning the ropes while covering courts and cops in a huge geographic area with a small population, I had a few missteps that I learned from. The greatest of them was to always be prepared. You never know when that sunny late summer afternoon will end with a standoff that needs to be covered or when a horse might get stuck on a cliff you have to hike up to.

Always be prepared for the unexpected.

When I was a new mother with a tiny, squirming infant, I cut my son’s nails for the first time and he bled. I sobbed — sure that he’d be scared for life, if not physically then mentally. I didn’t realize how soft and fragile those little nails and fingers would be, or how lost and ineffectual I’d feel when I accidentally nicked him. But he was fine, the bleeding stopped and he managed to reach the age of 11 without me cutting any of his digits off.

Live and learn.

Little lessons like these taught me, thankfully pretty quickly, that there’s so much I don’t know. And I’m grateful for it — there’s always so much more to learn and understand.

And what I do know I can pass along to others, whether it’s why a state has a certain nickname or why someone is uniquely qualified for their job or how to make something in the kitchen.

Like how to transform parsnips, fresh from a farmers market or stand, into a homemade finger food. These Peppery Parsnip Fries are a great alternative to traditional potato French fries and delicious served with burgers, stuff off the grill or whatever.


Making them is pretty simple. Parsnips are peeled and then cut into a large julienne shape (like fries). Then they’re tossed with cornstarch, which helps keep the outside of the parsnips drier for a nice skin, salt and pepper. This particular recipe is peppery on purpose, but for a less peppery version, you could use half the pepper.

A baking sheet is lined with parchment and sprayed with oil. Whether or not you use cooking oil spray — the bottled kind — this is totally doable. Use a mister that allows you to spray whatever oil you want, if you prefer. Or in a pinch, you also could lightly brush the tray with the oil of your choice … that’s my least favorite option though since you’ll use more oil that way.

Spread the seasoned parsnips in a single layer and then spray with additional oil (or in a pinch brush them with it).

Bake for about 30 minutes until they’re nice and browned in places. Then enjoy with ketchup.


Potatoes aren’t the only vegetable worth of fry-ification. And using other veggies can mean a robust, interesting side dish that’s totally backyard dining al fresco ready.

And while you’re out there dining, chat with your dining companions. Dinner conversation is a tremendous gift and one we should never take for granted.

One of the great ways you can learn is by conversing with others. The give and take of a great conversation can net so many life tidbits and discoveries that you never imagined before. But the absolute key is that you cannot just talk; you must listen too.

Peppery Parsnip Fries
Serves: serves 4
  • spray oil
  • 1 lb parsnips (about 3), peeled and cut into French fry shapes
  • ½ tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a parching sheet with parchment paper or other nonstick paper. Spray with a thin layer of oil.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the parsnips, corn starch, salt and pepper. Spray in a single layer on the baking sheet. Spray with additional oil spray.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping once or twice, until golden. Remove from the oven.
  4. Serve.


Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is editor of Bangor Metro magazine and senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News. She is the author of "The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook," (Sept. 2018, Rockridge Press) and the co-author of "Grains as Mains: Modern Recipes Using Ancient Grains" (March 2015, DK). Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, and more. She also writes about food at