• Andrea Ipaktchi

Rutabagas


Thanksgiving, Somewhere in Connecticut


Thanksgiving Day is the rutabagas' annual opportunity to make an impression at the table. It’s single chance to become the official 'tastes better than you would think' food item of the moment— but no. As you probably already know, rutabagas aren’t like that.

Rutabagas don’t care if you like them or not. They are perfectly content to show up once a year only. (Incidentally, same goes for rhubarb but in the summer.)


Mind you, rutabagas have always had their fair chance to stand out. It always sat aligned with the turkey, near the mashed potatoes, the peas, the pickled sweet onion, the cranberries, the stuffing, the corn and the fancy butter dish. It was always on equal footing but still, nobody ever paid it any mind— not even my mother and she was the cook. (Makes you wonder why she bothered to make it.)


Nobody’s arms ever got entangled in a race for the rutabaga bowl, that’s for sure. Nobody ever marvelled about them. Nobody cringed and squealed about them like when my Grandmother described the giblets, guts and necks used to make the gravy as thick as jelly(. Nobody ever gave much thought about them at all. Yet, the rutabagas always sat at our Thanksgiving feast.


We sat too and we told stories. We were five kids who were constantly jockeying for attention. Storytelling held more status than grades, hard work or athletics in the Renner family. Thanksgiving was our Olympics.


It was noisy. Competitive. You learned to work the table with whatever you had. Talk was as fast as the bowls being passed around the table. You had to have a gimmick. The potatoes and peas were dependable, like Vickie. The cranberries had zest like Mary. The turkey was a ballroom diva like Maggie. The stuffing, always a favourite, had mystery like our only brother, Jack. Maybe I was the gravy. (No one wants to be the rutabaga of the family.)


You'd get points if you could make our family chuckle or even groan . But if you could push Dad just over the edge, to get him laughing to the point of blowing his nose in his hanky? That was the triple axel. The four minute mile. It was the gold. You could feel your chest stick out with more pride than Gran's roasted turkey. You cold retire for duration of the four-day weekend.


At the end of the meal, we’d all clear the table and tuck the left-overs in the fridge. But one bowl, overlooked, always lingered on the countertop until morning.


I heard that no one in my family could find any rutabagas at the market this year. I guess it's just as well, I'm not able to show up this Thanksgiving anyway.

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