Hear the one about the rutabaga?
It keeps happening. People stop me in Ingles and tell me they enjoy my column. “Keep it up,” they say. “I’ll try,” I tell them, “but I have an expiration date.”
It happened again on Feb. 18, someone stopping me and saying my column made them laugh.
Inspired, I thought, Maybe I should write a column about Thurber as I motored over to the rutabagas. No, I already did a Thurber column. I mulled over the possibilities as I mulled over the rutabagas. Yeah, I can multi-task. There has to be a column here. I chose a big fat rutabaga and put it in my basket.
As I wove through produce, I pondered other ways to fix rutabaga. I knew exactly one way — simmered in a little no-salt-added chicken broth (oh, don’t get me started on canned chicken broth) until soft and mashed with butter — and maybe Google could offer up some suggestions.
I’ve always been afflicted with a quirky sense of humor, and people don’t always get me. That happened last year, after my column on Columnism appeared and someone said, “I didn’t get it.” But I try not to let a little negativity bother me, and I got over it after a few months of therapy.
I was rolling by the deli counter as I pondered the possibilities of getting a column out of this, wondering simultaneously if I could roast the rutabaga. “Google roast rutabaga” I wrote on the back of my shopping list so I wouldn’t forget. Maybe I should write a column about my failing memory, I thought. No, wait — did that too, pleased that I remembered, and as I browsed the hummus I decided I was lucky to live in a town where not everyone thought humor died with Henny Youngman.
I cruised over to the antipasto rack and grabbed a jar of my favorite marinated artichoke hearts. I’d made up my mind long ago that I’d never tell anyone I ate marinated artichoke hearts, and yet here I am spilling the beans. I suppose I need a “Real men eat artichoke hearts” bumper sticker now.
After picking up some tomato puree and unsalted chicken broth — homemade tomato soup, minus the turmeric, curry powder, sugar, and lemon juice — I headed to register 6 to check out, where I shared my secret tomato soup recipe with Jully, my regular cashier. She and I have an understanding — I won’t check out at another register, and she won’t bean me with a rutabaga.
To my surprise, Jully jotted down the ingredients. But then she has a good sense of humor too, so maybe she thought she was going along with a joke. But it’s no joke — this is my favorite tomato soup, and if I’m feeling really energetic I make it completely from scratch — a few overripe tomatoes, a chicken carcass, wilted aromatics, and garlic. That’s like making something out of almost nothing.
Which, now that I think about it, is a lot like writing a column.