Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mashed Rutabaga Has a Winning Flavor

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mashed Rutabaga Has a Winning Flavor

Article excerpt

IN THE supermarket it looks like a pale yellow stone, something you might heave as you storm a castle. But on your plate it looks like orange mashed potatoes. And when made with butter, salt and maybe some sugar, it has a winning flavor.

It is rutabaga, a root vegetable with a hard peel and a few hard-core supporters. I am one of them.

I confess that I had pretty much forgotten about it until a recent visit to my mother's house in Kansas City. I grew up in the Midwest, eating rutabaga. I would like to be able to report today that in the nation's midlands, rutabaga is a widely appreciated winter vegetable. But Mom says that isn't so. She says that every time she rolls a rutabaga down the supermarket conveyor belt, the cashier gets quizzical. Usually, she says, a question-and-answer session follows. It goes something like this: "What is this?" the cashier asks, peering down at the pale yellow lump. "Rutabaga," Mom replies. "Whaddya do with it?" the cashier asks. "Peel it, boil it and make it into a sweet cousin of mashed potatoes," Mom replies. The exchange ends with the cashier fingering the hard rutabaga and doubting, either silently or aloud, that anything that tough could be transformed into something light and fluffy. Rutabaga apparently suffers from widespread anonymity. One of my colleagues who is a rutabaga fan says she has a hard time finding a good selection of rutabaga in Baltimore-area supermarkets. This colleague hails from the province of Ontario in Canada, where, she says, rutabaga is highly regarded - and widely referred to as a turnip. In some other climes, rutabaga is called "Swede," an apparent reference to its heritage. According to "Larousse Gastronomique," a well-respected culinary reference work, the vegetable was originally grown in Scandinavia, where it was called "rotabagge." The Scottish have another name for it. In Scotland, according to Francis Bissell, author of "The Book of Food," a dish of mashed rutabaga and turnips is called "bashed neeps." Bashed neeps is said to be the traditional accompaniment to haggis, a dish that starts with the stomach of a sheep and goes on from there. …

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