I was shopping over Christmas for some typical fare, when I saw two ladies standing over a basket of round purple roots.
Feeling chatty, I asked what they were.
Rutabagas, I was told.
Oh? (The woman almost fainted.)
I said I wasn't sure if I had ever had a rutabaga.
(She succeeded with her faint.)
OK, not really, but she started with, "Oh, you're are KIDDING me. Rutabagas are one of my favorites!" And, she had only begun to explain.
While her friend stood by, the lady said she had grown up with them. Very tasty things. I asked how you cook them. A lady in red, walking by, happening to overhear explained that you cook them like mashed potatoes then smother them in gravy.
Pleased with her answer, the lady in red stood by to reap her rewards.
They were NOT forthcoming, I soon found out.
"Oh, sure, you CAN cover them with all that CRAP," the first lady explained, but then you might as well just make potatoes. She shot a look at the lady in red.
(Wow, this was getting steamy.)
Lady in red shrugged, and kinda hovered in the area, pretending to pick out veggies. I think she was as interested in hearing about the rutabaga as I was.
Lady one continued, yes, you can cook them like potatoes. Cut them in cubes, boil them, and mash, then smother them with whatever. But, please, she begged, would I first just try them plain, maybe with some salt or butter. She was raised with them, and they were one of her comfort foods. And, healthy to boot.
Should I try them?
I called out to my sis, checking if she would mind trying something a bit different for dinner. Sure, she was up for it. OK, then.
I grabbed one of the smaller bulbs but the lady protested. She explained that the rutabaga is covered in a very thick non-edible wax - so the actual veggie is much smaller. She also warned that I would need a very sharp knife to cut through the wax and the root itself. Not a problem. And, she added, I should be very careful not to cut myself with that very sharp knife. I assured her I would be careful.
You know, I was beginning to really trust this woman. After all, she gave cooking tips (boil till fork tender, but you could also roast it or use it as you would a carrot or potato in most applications), selection tips, safety warnings...my kind of woman.
I grabbed a larger one and she and her quiet friend seemed pleased. I thanked them for their insight, trying to include the (still hovering) woman in red in my appreciation without setting off the "cover them in crap" firestorm again.
That evening we had cubed rutabaga with our roast. Little butter, little salt, on slightly orange potato-looking pieces. You know, the taste was very familiar. I think I've had it plenty of times in restaurants but I didn't know what it was.
My sis would have preferred them cooked a bit more and mashed.
Maybe we will do that next time.
But, out of respect for the lady who introduced them to me,
I don't think I'll cover them... ;)