Thanksgiving eve, Susan and I recounted during a telephone visit what we were cooking and baking for our respective Thanksgiving celebrations in opposite ends of Texas. Susan is a talented cook, and it was dissapointing to hear that I was not going to taste her extraordinary banana pudding or partake of her homemade salami. Susan, too, was disappointed when she heard of one of the items on my list, but for a different reason. When I told her that I was cooking a pot of turnips, she said with sincere sympathy, “I am so sorry.” I assured her that a large bowl of mashed turnips makes a sumptuous meal all by itself. I went on to explain that I was cooking them in honor of my father-in-law, who fondly remembers the presence of cooked turnips at every Thanksgiving and Christmas meal as he was growing up.
Susan then told me her own memory of eating turnips at Thanksgiving when she was a child. As always, the abundant fare at Grandmother Rachel’s table offered many choices, and Susan filled her plate with anticipation. A short time later, Susan’s surprised taste buds identified the unmistakeable taste of turnips masquerading as mashed potatoes. She looked over at Grandmother and surmised that she would not approve of her thankless attitude toward turnips. Resolutely, she ate every bite of turnip on her plate. Susan concluded her story by firmly saying, “And that was the last turnip that I ever ate.”
At the next family gathering, I think a rutabaga dish is in order. While rutabagas and turnips are closely related, turnips have a snappy flavor compared to the rutabagas’ more mellow, nutty-sweet flavor. Dad prefers rutabagas and recently asked me to prepare one for him. With care, I selected one of the big, heavy, paraffin-coated root vegetables at the grocery story. As usual, the puzzled check-out clerk asked, “What is it?” Our lunch that day consisted of a hearty bowl of mashed rutabagas, seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper. In honor of Susan, I’ve selected a rutabaga recipe to prepare for her that is embellished with apples, celery, tarragon, and lemon juice. Perhaps this fresh approach to a turnip cousin will entice Susan to become a rutabaga fan, and a new family tradition will be born!