Friday, November 19, 2010

Back to Our Roots, II: Rutabaga-Cauliflower Soup

So the good news is that I haven't heard back from my doctor's office, which, I guess, means I don't have gestational diabetes.  And in a moment of brave and calm diplomacy, I talked today with the person whose comment initiated the "attitude problem" meeting, and it turns out that it was a misunderstanding (with damaging consequences, but at least I know where it came from now).  And I've survived the work week: tomorrow is Friday, and I'll be in an all day meeting where I don't have to say much unless I want to. 

Ian's class is having a Thanksgiving feast tomorrow.  Even if you don't have a child, if you live in the U.S., you remember these from your own preschool and elementary days: half of the class dresses up as Native Americans, the other half dresses up as Pilgrims, and you pretend that everyone got along just fine over turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes, which parents send from home.  (For his class, the menu includes chicken nuggets, a vegetable and fruit platter, muffins, and turkey and cheese sandwiches--at least it's not complete junk, I guess--but the point is the same.)  This is a beautiful little lie, of course; while the Native Americans did help the colonists survive, especially during the harsh New England winters, we all know how complicated the relationship really was, and that it was not always friendly, or even civil.  As much as we like to give our children the foundation for acceptance and tolerance, our own family dinners are probably a better indication of what colonial America was really like.

One of my favorite faculty members at our university does research on interpersonal communication through analysis of Thanksgiving and other "ceremonial' dinners.  She looks at food complaints and compliments, and considers the ways in which those complains and compliments both interrupt and support the way in which a family tells stories about itself.  As someone who has sat through her share of not-exactly-cordial Thanksgiving dinners, I have to confess that what we say about the food speaks volumes about the way we relate to one another, too.  For example: my mother, for many years now, need to make mashed rutabaga.  It's not clear to any of us why she needs this dish, and no one else really likes it all that much; so every year, I chide her about the rutabaga.  My mother has become more self-involved over the years, and the rutabaga makes perfect sense in this context.  It doesn't matter if no one else wants it or likes it.

As I've mentioned, my brother is cooking our Thanksgiving meal this year, and I'm thankful to be spared the headache of cooking everyone their favorite dishes, which only they want.  But I had to laugh when I pulled a rutabaga out of our last CSA box.  It was like the universe telling me that I should make a good faith effort to get along, even if we are as different as Native Americans and colonial settlers.

Of course, I turned it into soup.

Rutabaga Cauliflower Soup

3 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 cups vegetable stock
1.5 c rutabaga, peeled and roughly chopped (you may substitute 1 medium or 2 small peeled, chopped potatoes or sweet potato)
1 large carrot, peeled and quartered
1 head cauliflower separated into florets
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 -1/2 tsp cayenne powder (optional)
black pepper and paprika for garnish
Parmesan cheese

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. Once hot, add the curry powder and salt. Stir in the onion and sautée for about five minutes. Stir occasionally to keep from burning. Add the garlic and continue to sautée, until the onion is golden in color and translucent. Add your vegetable stock (or water with bullion cubes) and bring to a boil. Once boiling add the rutabaga and carrot. Turn heat down, but maintain a feisty simmer; cook until the rutabega is beginning to soften- about 10 or 15 minutes. Add the cauliflower, again bringing to a boil, turn the heat down and continue to simmer until it is soft. Remove from heat, add black and cayenne peppers. Blend until creamy with an immersion or regular blender. Taste, adding salt if you like. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with paprika and black pepper; add several slivers of parmesan to the top. Enjoy!
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  1. The thing my mother makes that no one else likes is saukraut. Yes, sour, festy cabbage. Which I don't mind now, but she forced it onto my plate when my childish palate interpreted the sour assault on my tastebuds as just painful.

    Sour and festy describes our relationship fairly well.

    The only likes I've taken away from childhood Thanksgivings are a strange love of really dry turkey (although I don't find turkey in Oz much - although strangely had it a lot when I lived in Paris) and a desire to make pumpkin pie, which I don't do because no one else in my household understands it. Pumpkin isn't sweet here.

  2. I'm having trouble believing that I's school has the kids dress as Pilgrims and Indians. REALLY? W's school does not do that (though to be sure, they don't do Halloween costumes, either) but I'm stunned that a school like yours still does that.

    Have you made your boss aware of the source of the bad attitude? Because that shouldn't be allowed to stand.

    I hope your week ends better than it began, and that you have a beautiful weekend.

  3. You sound relieved about getting at least some resolution to the work situation (a little at least). I'm glad.

    The older I get the more I sympathize with my mother all these years having to make the ridiculous dishes we each requested at Thanksgiving. I want vegetarian gravy, I want lasagna (traditional Thanksgiving food be damned), I want macaroni and cheese (no not from scratch, from the box), I want chicken pot pie, and the list goes on. We never made it easy, that's for sure!

  4. Glad things at work are simmering down a bit and I don't think I've ever even had a rutabaga and if I did nobody told me.

  5. yay for the good health check. family dynamics are hard at the best of times. fingers are crossed for you

  6. You sound so much better than your last post. Sorry you had such a rotten day. Parents are interesting species sometimes. ;) You are a good person!!!!

    Oh, and I am so impressed and jealous beyond belief that you are able to still run. I am getting ready to attach wheels to my couch so I can get out and about. HA!

  7. It's a funny thing with those CSA's...sometimes, a certain type of vegetable can just haunt you:) For us it's collard greens. (Had to put that on the no-no list).

  8. *~*Happy ICLW*~* You have some yummy looking recipe shares on here :D Sounds like work is ... a bit of a ... Jello Match.. yep, that's it... next time, just picture them all wrestling in Jello......

  9. I'm in Quebec so we don't do the pilgrim thing. To us, Thanksgiving means no school. But I do remember the moms bringing food for whatever occasion. I loved eating the cupcakes, yum.
    Your soup looks so good !

    Happy ICLW

  10. Thanks for posting this. I've been thinking of adding rutabaga to a pumpkin-cauliflower soup and I wasn't sure it could be cooked down and blended along with the other two. Now I know!


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