Swedes Do, Normal People Don’t

Writes Dear Reader Bruce Paulson of Gillett, Wisconsin:

Your article the other day about rutabagas whet my appetite so on Friday I went to the local grocery store with a friend who was staying for supper. I unloaded three of them at the checkout counter where a teenage clerk started to examine them for an identity sticker. There was none. So she turned to her 65 year old supervisor and said, “What is THIS?” The supervisor said, “That is what they call a Swede turnip. Swedish people eat them, but normal people don’t.” The clerk then started to check the produce price list for Swede turnip and not finding it listed, stuck them in a bag and said, “With my compliments.” Being free they were especially good.

You just can’t put a price sticker on rutabagas.


10 thoughts on “Swedes Do, Normal People Don’t

  1. Rutabagas have a serious public relations issue.

    In Germany, whenever you mention Steckrüben (the German word for rutabagas), someone is sure to bring up the horrors of “Steckrübenwinter” – the winter of 1916/1917, when war and a poor harvest combined to force people to eat rutabagas in lieu of potatoes. Naturally, hardly anyone remembers that from personal experience – but the trauma seems to sits so deep that it has somehow endured through the generations.


  2. The late, great, Torsten Ehrenmark frequently related his problems getting hold of swedes in England. His theory was that it reminded the natives too much of the WWII hardships, when the population had to resort to the stuff for their survival. Furthermore, he stated that “any delight without mashed swedes is false delight”.

    He also had a similar problem tracking down dill i France.


  3. I never have problems buying swedes/rutabagas in England. They’re in just about every supermarket and corner greengrocer, when in season. Maybe people have learned something since Ehrenmark’s time.

    (I had a friend who swore he’d never eat them, so one day my girlfriend (now wife) made up a pot of julienned swedes, spiced with a little ginger, garlic and garam marsala. After he came back for his fourth plateful, she told him what he’d been eating. They’re fantastic, you can do anything with them.)


  4. Swedes (which is what we call rutabagas, apologies for conflating a type of vegetable with a people) have been a part of our Sunday roasts for as long as I can remember. I can confirm that in England (where I grew up) they are easy to find, but in Australia (where I live now) it’s a bit more tricky.


  5. His theory was that it reminded the natives too much of the WWII hardships,

    For my generation, the hardships were the school dinners. Tapioca has a similar reputation.


  6. They’re fantastic, you can do anything with them.

    Except eat them.  😉

    Actually, I tend to concur with the intended sentiment, the bloody things are flexible additions to many dishes. It’s when they are the dish that I (and I suspect others) have problems.


  7. No rutabagas here in Japan, though we do have a few other good root vegetables. I miss it though; rutabaga soup with sausages is yummy, and mashed, baked rutabagas is good too, if a little heavy.


  8. Joshua, I think it depends where in Aus you are and the time of year. I’m in Victoria and there are swedes in all the supermarkets and green grocers through winter, and I see them sometimes during summer as well. I bought some a few days ago at my local Woolworths/Safeway. If you’re up north they may be harder to get.


  9. Tonight (the 25th) being Burns Night, huge quantities of swede/rutabaga will be consumed. Under the correct name of Neep! Simply mashed (or chappit) with butter and loads of ground pepper. Accompanying the haggis with mashed potatoes also. Lovely! (Once a year;)


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