Our neighbor, Danny, likes to call me Martha. And I don’t mean the one in the Bible. I think he gets tickled at all my big dreams for the farm. Since I call myself a farm wife, he teases me about the fact that I should know everything there is to know about gardening, milking and raising farm animals. But I don’t. And he knows that, because I consider Danny one of my gardening mentors, and am constantly bugging him for advice. He really knows his stuff, as he probably teethed on a tractor wheel. The fault comes in when he convinces me to stretch my wings and try to grow something I’ve never seen or tasted. Like rutabagas.
Danny won. Several years ago, I bit the bullet and planted rutabagas for my fall garden. I also put in some turnips, Pinto beans and mustard greens. Now, mind you, I do not eat turnip or mustard greens, had never tasted a rutabaga (much less even seen one that I was aware of) or a turnip. I didn’t even know how to cook them. Randy loves the greens, doesn’t mind the turnips, but like me, didn’t know what a rutabaga tasted like. But I was game.
Of course, not knowing what I was getting into, I headed up to Alona’s Beauty Shop to find out what these rutabaga creatures were and how to cook them. As usual, I got great information, as well as a touch of variation. Mrs. Dot recommended that you peel them, put them in water with a little salt meat and some sugar, and cook them down until they are tender. Mrs. Perkins agreed, but she adds a touch of salt to hers. Everyone agreed that rutabagas are delicious. Mrs. Dot even went so far as to tell me how to preserve them – which is to dip them in melted paraffin wax and let them cool until the wax hardens. And then Randy had to add his two cents worth, which was to ‘add a baked possum and you’ve got a tasty meal!’
Randy was just joking, but I started giggling when all the women started in on how to cook a possum. One said that they could only be served with sweet potatoes, one swore by baking him in an oven like a roast beef with carrots and potatoes. And then Mrs. Dot told her story of a friend who cooked one.
Apparently her friend really didn’t ‘cotton’ to possum. She didn’t like cooking them; she didn’t like eating them. So she decided to finally get out of doing it.
She baked the possum as normal – whether with sweet potatoes or carrots and Irish potatoes, Mrs. Dot didn’t say. But the woman cooked it up and served it on the table. Everyone started digging in, oohing and ahhing over the deliciousness of it. Then her friend piped up in a voice just loud enough to be heard, “I wonder what dead mule that one crawled out of.”
Shall I say that, after the looks on the faces of her family, Mrs. Dot’s friend never had to cook or eat another possum in her life. Nor will I. Not that I had any desire to do so in the first place, but you can bet your very last dollar I won’t knowingly or willingly ever wrap my mouth around a possum after hearing that story! And I really don’t care if it is served with sweet potatoes or carrots and Irish potatoes.
As it turned out, I was fairly good at growing rutabagas, but not so good at eating them. They aren’t my favorite. But I was willing to try something new, and learned a little in the process. We are so much like our gardens and farms – we can’t grow if we aren’t willing to learn. The more you try, the better you get. Even if the learning process leads you to growing a vegetable you aren’t familiar with, or cooking up a possum. Mrs. Dot passed away several years ago, but I miss her wisdom and her wit every day. Even if she did come up with some rather quirky recipes for cooking a possum.
If you do decide to try your hand at cooking possum, don’t bother sending me an invitation for dinner, though. I think I’ll just stick with PB&J that night.