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?”

“Pumpkin-orange.”

“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.

Love,

Julie

*bottom picture from QueenaSookKim flickr