Rutabaga will test you

We’ve been invited out for Thanksgiving dinner this year so it looks like come Thursday afternoon I should have all ten fingers intact. That’s something I worry about when we are cooking at home and serving rutabaga, an Ackerman tradition.
I was a full grown adult when I learned not only is rutabaga not on the Thanksgiving table in every home but also there are a whole lot of people who have never even heard of it. Rutabaga is a root vegetable that is a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. It’s flavor bears that out.
In our house, rutabaga was always served mashed. It had the appearance of orange mashed potatoes.
Everyone in our family loved rutabaga and still do, but it wasn’t until my dad passed away 22 years ago and the task of preparing the rutabaga fell to me that I appreciated what a commitment it was to put this dish on the table.
Rutabaga is roundish, dark purple in color and about the size of a softball. It must be peeled and diced for cooking and therein lies the rub. Cutting a rutabaga, I learned that first Thanksgiving without Dad, is tantamount to trying to cut a bowling ball.
I’m not kidding.
The first time I tackled the job I could not even work a knife into the damned thing to get started.
“My God,” I said to my mom. “Dad actually did this?”
“Yes he did,” she said matter-of-factly. “But he cursed the whole time.”
Once we had access to the internet I searched for hints on ways to peel and cut a rutabaga. None were helpful.
About the only useful thing I did find on the internet was that during World War I and II, in Germany and France the rutabaga was considered “a food of last resort.” During times of famine, poor people of these countries often survived on a stew made by boiling rutabaga in water. It’s said that’s why many older Germans have an unhappy memory of the vegetable.
I, on the other hand, have only happy memories of eating rutabaga. But none of preparing it.

Ed Ackerman