Another reason to be thankful

We are not making Thanksgiving dinner at home this year, so it looks like come Thursday afternoon I should have all ten fingers intact. Lopping off a finger is something I worry about when we are responsible for the cooking. That’s because of something called rutabaga, an Ackerman Thanksgiving tradition.
I was a full grown adult when I learned that not only is rutabaga not on the Thanksgiving table in every home, but also that there are a whole lot of people who have never even heard of it.
Rutabaga is a root vegetable, kind of a cross between the cabbage and the turnip. Its 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 25 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 (almost black) 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. “And 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 worthwhile thing I found 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 it.
I, on the other hand, have only happy memories of eating rutabaga.
None, however, of preparing it.

Ed Ackerman