I went vegetable picking this weekend, and as I wrestled a 10-pound, dirt-covered bulb out of the ground, I experienced a new kind of buyer’s remorse. It was a feeling of dread–dread that I’d committed to purchase something that might not be a beet after all. It might be a megaturnip, I thought. Or a tree stump. Or a boot! I wanted very badly for it to be a boot. I would march inside with the boot, I decided, and refuse to pay. The farmer would apologize and give me some beets for free and maybe even throw in some fresh eggs. I was thinking about how I’d cook the eggs (scrambled, with broccoli and cheese) when the earth gave way and I fell backward with the bulb finally, disgustingly, in my hands.
It was a rutabaga–or so I was told by a woman who came by in a tractor. She said “It’s a rutabaga!” with lots of energy, as if she were a waitress at the beginning of her shift and I had asked about the soup of the day. “Great!” I replied, but when she drove off I made a face and tried to cram it back into its hole.
It didn’t fit. I thought about leaving it on the side of the vegetable patch, but that seemed like the morally bankrupt option, so I put it in my wheelbarrow and paid for it at the farmhouse.
When I got home, Scott took it to the back yard and cleaned it off with a power hose. He showed it to the dogs, who fell in love with it instantly, like they do with volleyballs and human babies.
It sat on the kitchen counter for two days. I couldn’t see it from my desk but it distracted me, like Edgar Allen Poe’s tell-tale heart beating under the floorboards.
This morning I could wait no longer; I cooked the sucker. First I cut the filthy outside off and stuffed it into a pot with some butter, and then I whipped it with sour cream and salt and more butter.
It was okay. I mean, it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever had. If you find yourself on a desert island with nothing but a rutabaga, you won’t die from eating it. In fact, you probably should eat it. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they come alive at midnight.
While walking through a cabbage patch at the farm, I had a shocking realization about what Georgia O’Keefe’s work would look like had she been a photographer.