Reminiscing about Rutabagas

I’ve always been able to ask my mother anything. She doesn’t know about numbers, money, or directions–and she doesn’t want to, but she understands emotions. I called her New Year’s Day. “I cooked collards and black-eyed peas. How ’bout you?”

“I had rutabagas,” she said.

I laughed. “Really? I didn’t know rutabagas are a real food. How’d you cook them?”

“I opened a can and poured them in a pot.”

“Have you ever bought fresh ones?”

“Once, but they were horrible to peel. Like a coconut or a rock.”

“I’ve never noticed them at the grocery store,” I said.

“I always look away and head to the canned goods.”

“Did you grow up eating them?”

“Oh, yes. I’d come home on a cold winter’s eve with the trees bare and gray sky behind them. I’d run inside and Mother was in the kitchen cooking. The whole house smelled like rutabagas.”

“What do they smell like?”

“Wintertime. Security.”

“What color are they after you cook them?”


“What did Goge (my grandmother) fix to go with them?”

“Turnip greens, pork chops, cornbread, sweet tea, and gingerbread for desert. She’d say, ‘Talk to me while I cook. Tell me what you did today.’ Now when I eat rutabagas, I go back in time. I’m standing behind my mother at the stove. She’s stirring… like I’m seeing a painting I love.”

“Rutabagas mean more than eating vegetables, don’t they?”

“They sure do. They mean, I love you. No matter what happens in life, you’re gonna be okay,” she said softly.

“Thank you, Mother.” I tucked her message deep inside my heart.

My dear friends, I’m sending you a plateful of warm rutabaga-love on this January day.



*bottom picture from QueenaSookKim flickr


  1. Anna Haney says:

    This is so sweet. I feel this way about soup beans and cornbread. My mom knows how much I like hers, so she makes it for me, even with her arthritis, when I am there. My grandmother knew how much Daddy loved pumpkin pie, so she would always makes him one from scratch. My mother in law knows how my husband loves her chicken and dumplings, so she has those ready. And my hubby knows how much I love coconut, so he, the cook in the family, makes anything coconutty for me. I would like to think that our dinner with Jesus will be full of our fave foods (a friend thinks heaven has rivers of Mountain Dew and sweet tea), but like these meals, I know love is the main course. Thank you, dear, sweet Julie, for my Wednesday blessings

    • Smiled all the way through your precious comment, Anna. And I LOVE coconut too. My favorite candy bar is Mounds. 🙂 And bless your mama’s heart–cooking with arthritis!

      It’s the little things, isn’t it! xo

  2. Beautiful Julie! How wonderful to take note of the “trees bare and gray sky behind them”. Praying I will slow to take note of the paintings God is giving us today. I chuckled when I read the title of this post yet have found such security in knowing God’s masterpiece can even use a rutabaga or us to reveal His security! Blessings and paintings to you today!

    • Thanks you, Tom. When Mother started telling me about rutabagas, that part in my heart that “feels” a story, wouldn’t be still.

      Rutabagas and blessings to you today. 🙂

  3. Mary Wilkins says:

    My Mom always used fresh rutabagas. She mashed up the cooked pieces and added a little sugar and butter. I bought one once in our local grocery chain and had to tell the cashier what it was so he could look up the code! Seems to me if one is old enough to remember what a rutabaga is, they shouldn’t have to show their license to buy beer.

    • I’m laughing, Mary. So true!!! And I’m going back to the store and buying me the real thing. Making them the old-fashioned way. 🙂

  4. I loved reading this post, Julie! It brought back memories of my Mom’s Sunday dinners after church. The smell of pot roast cooking always brings me back to those days of coming home after church, and having the aroma of pot roast flowing throughout the house. Sweet memories.

    • Eileen, we had roast every Sunday too!!! Roast beef, carrots, and potatoes…and those brown and serve rolls. 🙂 Smells trigger powerful memories, don’t they!

      Love to you today.

  5. ugh! I’m sorry, but to my palate, canned rutabagas are up there with canned spinach, canned asparagus or canned peas! Fresh, on the other hand, they are heavenly!
    My first (& best) experience cooking rutabagas was a Thanksgiving dinner where I had a huge roaster filled with root veggies: carrots, turnips, beets, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, garlic & onions all chopped into about inch & 1/2 chunks. Only seasonings were sea salt, cracked pepper & a sprig of rosemary from my garden. Oh my! Everybody started loving everybody else and got all warm & caramelized… YUM! 🙂

    All that aside, I love your stories of your mom’s stories of growing up. What a treasure! They are knitted with such love, it’s a precious heirloom to hand down to the coming generations. The stray pieces are woven and stitched together and quilted with care. I know your children will one day call you up on New Year’s Day to ask what you’re eating and you’ll tell them another story of love…

    • Beautiful, beautiful, Melody. And I found out I can’t eat the canned rutabagas. They have wheat in them. So….I googled and found the same type recipe you’re talking about. I’m going to try it. You may it sound delish!

      Such sweet words about these things I’m drawn to write about. Mother will be 77 this year…I just feel such a tug to ask even more questions, write even more about the good stuff.


      • What?! Why did they need an added starch? Do all brands use wheat?

        Off the subject & back to the subject of ME 🙂 …

        I blogged about a quiche I made the other night. It was soooooo delicious! After I saw (& discussed) your crusty pecan pie, I had a pie-crust-craving like you would not believe. I need to find my notes for what all I put in my AP flour substitute, but I used a crust recipe from King Arthur.

        My mom just turned 75. She lived in the hills of Kentucky until her freshman year of high school they moved here to Phoenix for Grandma’s health. She doesn’t have pleasant memories of rutabagas, because I think that’s almost all they ate one very poor winter… 😛

        • Melody, I went to 3 grocery stores after I discovered the can contained wheat. I couldn’t find another brand. 🙁 So, I guess I’ll be making the real deal. Ohhh, rutabagas meant a poor winter for your mother…and they meant love for mine. Wow. Powerful.

          Will check out your quiche blog. Yeah, my BFF loves king Arthur GF flour. I’ve ordered a ton of Pamela’s so I’ll finish that up before trying “The King’s.”


  6. Awww, Julie! I went and teared up–and I don’t tear up easily! This is one of my favorites. Love the word paintings you splashed all over this piece. And your mom sounds a little Erma Bombeckesque–“..look away and head to the canned goods.” 🙂

    I have a storyteller friend who goes by the persona “Grandma Rutabaga.” Especially love her name now! xo

    • Marie, we both LOVE Erma. Can’t wait to tell Mother what you said today–and yes, she’s a lot like her. Quick humor, for sure.

      Wo-hoooo! I made you tear up. I love to do that–guess it’s the writer in me, but I love to help my readers feel deeply.

      Ohhhh, Grandma Rutabaga. Must use her name in a future novel. I LOVE IT!

  7. Happy sigh. Warm blessings to you, sweet Julie! xoxo

  8. Thank you, Julie, for the warm plate of love. Tell Marion that I cook rutabagas every Thanksgiving and Christmas for my dear hubby who loves them. I peel the coconuts/rocks and struggle to dice them up to cook (they take MUCH longer than a potato to soften). I’m very thankful for your post because I DID NOT KNOW THEY CAME IN A CAN! I hope I can find them for the holidays this year in my grocery store in California. If not, I’m sending money to your mom to buy some cans for me. lol
    Love you!

    • And I wasn’t even sure they were a real food–and you’ve been taking the time and energy to peel rocks for your husband! Wow–am I impressed.

      I’ll mail you some, my friend. Along with a big dose of love. xo

  9. Geri Wilson says:

    Oh Julie, tears are a flowing, you have such a way with words! Rutabagas bring back memories! My Mom used to put them in her vegetable soup along with turnips. When I was pregnant with each of my three children, I craved them both! I would boil them until soft and then mash them with a little butter and salt and pepper. A very warm and comforting dinner!!! Love your stories so much…thanks!!!!

    • Geri. I just can’t believe this. People really knew about rutabagas–and seem to be in love with them, and I never knew. I read your comment out loud to Mother yesterday. She called as I was opening your sweet words.

      I never thought of putting them in vegetable soup, but they have to be good for you.

      Sending you a double plate of rutabagas today. And love.

  10. Precious! I happen to LOVE good rutabagas. Never made them fresh and don’t really eat them from a can. But I love the ones we get at a local restaurant. And yes, I know what you mean about food bringing back memories. Caramel cakes are my Grandma Lambert. Boiled custard are my Grandma Skinner. And green apple chewing gum is Doyle Thomas from the 8th grade. 🙂

    • Vonda, I thought about you when I wrote this–wondered if rutabagas was a Southern food, and being from the South, you might know them. Then I found out, people all over the country love them.

      Ohhhhhh boiled custard! As my grandmother used to say, “So good it’ll make you crawl up the wall.”

      And caramel cakes…yes, yes, yes! And green apple chewing gum from Doyle. You gotta write about that one. Bet there’s a story there. 🙂

  11. Sandra Walker says:

    We always had them with pork chops, too! Of course, cornbread. We had them fresh but the “field peas” were Margaret Holmes! Banana pudding was dessert. Mother (91) and I had fresh rutabagas at
    Matthews in Tucker the other day. If you go there, get them! Yep, it was a warm plate of love today!

    • Sandra, I grew up eating at Matthews in Tucker!! Wow! And they had rutabagas the other day. I never knew about “Margaret Holmes” until I went looking for rutabagas.

      Sending you a double portion of rutabaga love today! xo

  12. Pat Garczynski says:

    It is only 10:00 in the morning in Michigan, and I have a first-ever-try of cubed rutabaga roasting in the oven with olive oil and sea salt. Peeling and cutting it was definitely not easy! even with a good knife. However, it smells wonderful and I’m counting on a delicious lunch and “Wintertime security.”
    Love from the FOLLOW-her……

  13. Love it, love it, love it Pat!!! You’ve inspired me. I gotta try it too!

    Wintertime security.

    And I love FOLLOW-her. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  14. This is exactly the way I feel about certain foods! I soooo understand MBWA and I love that the two of you can talk on this level love you

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