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Voyageur's Best Features of 2006


Root, root… rutabaga
by Don Crouchn  |  December 5, 2006

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone. Christmas can’t be far behind.  But let us pause a minute and think about Thanksgiving.  What does it really mean? Food, of course! In large quantities.

We all know, or should know, about the Pilgrims and Indians and their first celebration. But now, it means that families try to come together for at least one time during a four day weekend that has become the most traveled of the year. And, what does a family gathering mean? Food!

My nephew invited me to Thanksgiving dinner, and I asked what I could bring. There would be eight or ten people there, so that would be a goodly amount of food to prepare. For those of you who know me, you know that I like to cook – and it is usually for a larger gathering. Remember the dinners we used to have in order to raise money for the new Cromwell band uniforms? And, I usually brought a coffee cake ring of some kind somewhere. I don’t remember how I made it, but I wish I could do it again, because it was really good.

I told my nephew that I would bring a salad and a vegetable.  The salad was easy, but I wanted something very different for the vegetable. I steam veggies and put an Italian dressing on them; I have a great recipe for cauliflower with cheese; and I also have a really good asparagus recipe – again with an Italian flavor. Baked sweet potatoes or squash are great — but common. Then came the McGregor Voyageur Press and several good recipes – including one which had rutabagas. What a good idea!

I remember Perk always used to talk about how he and his brothers raised an acre or more of rutabagas and took them to Duluth and sold them on the street corner. This must have been during the Depression as I think it was in the ’30s. Growing up, I had eaten them, and liked them, but now never go out of my way to fix them. My mother used to fix them once in a while – but that was nothing special because there weren’t very many things she cooked that were really memorable. Most of her cooking you tried to forget. In fact, I learned to cook to survive after my youngest sister graduated from high school and  my dad and I were left with my mother’s cooking. Not a good thing.  (All three of my sisters turned out to be great cooks, and we always said that it was because my grandmother – a fantastic cook – wouldn’t let my mother into the kitchen so she never learned!)

Anyway, rutabagas were my choice for Thanksgiving dinner this year. So I tried to find the recipe from the Voyageur Press.  Couldn’t find it.  I looked at every cut out recipe I have, and I went through the Voyageur Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune Taste section and could find nothing. So, Thanksgiving morning I decided to wing it. 

I don’t remember these veggies as being so tough. They do have a wax coating as a preservative, but just trying to cut them was a problem – especially when trying to remember not to cut off a finger. I remembered my dad using an ax to cut the giant Hubbard squash open. But I didn’t have an ax. 

I finally cut each in half and began to peel them. Problems —  I didn’t dare put the wax down the garbage disposal, and my arthritic hand almost didn’t make it through the paring.  Well, I got them cooked and mashed, put some butter in them and got them into the oven with time to spare. At the time I was closing the oven door my sister called and wanted to know if I had the baked rutabaga recipe. I told her no, and she said that she had the Voyageur Press because I brought it to her to read one of my articles. So, I pulled the pan out of the oven, she told me the recipe over the phone, and I finished it in time to take to dinner. It was delicious!  Probably the hit of the veggies, and we had five different kinds that day. 

So, Thanksgiving is past, but Christmas is coming.  Why not try a rutabaga for Christmas Dinner?  The recipe is in the November 14 Voyageur Press.  (Many thanks to whoever sent it in!)  Give it a try.  Maybe it will bring back memories of “Christmas Past”–Without Scrooge. 

This article first appeared in the December 5, 2006 issue of the Voyageur Press.