Saturday, July 21, 2012


Photo: Rutabagas, from organic garden info

Rutabagas are not the most elegant vegetables. Yet like beets, they are virtuous. They are quite easy to grow in cold climates and keep well, and they are full of carotene.

This vegetable was a staple in my mother's pantry. The cooking methods were basic: boiled and mashed with butter, salt and pepper, or added to hearty winter stews.

As children, we sometimes snacked on pieces of raw rutabaga when Mom was preparing the vegetables for the pot and dinner still seemed a long time away.

Today these turnips are seasonal vegetables we eat at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our family enjoys them boiled and mashed with a little maple syrup. Occasionally, I use them in stew. I'm very fond of turnips, and so is my daughter. My husband can definitely do without them.

In the UK, rutabagas are called swedes. Visiting Oxford a few years back, I was delighted to find mashed swede on the menu of a restaurant called The Big Bang. As its name indicated, the place specialized in sausages, or bangers, and various kinds of mash and pickle. As well as mashed swede, mashed potato and mashed carrot were on offer.

Alas, the Big Bang is no more. Proprietor Max Mason, formerly of the Royal Navy, originally planned to keep the restaurant open for only a few months, but he kept serving his simple and delicious fare for seven years. The popular restaurant closed its doors in August 2011.

It's been nearly a year since the Big Bang of a farewell party that closed off Walton Street. Now I wonder: where are those hungry Oxonians getting their bangers and mashed swede?

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