THE CREAMY SAUCE LINGERS on my tongue. Then, zip, my nostrils burn with the zing of stinging horseradish. My eyes water. And I wonder why I eat this stuff.
I like spicy. I like hot. Not jalapeno with too many seeds hot. But horseradish hot I can handle in small doses. It’s part of my DNA.
For years, until his death in 2003, my dad made horseradish. You don’t really make horseradish. Rather you process the roots into a creamy white sauce. Horseradish preserved in vinegar.
It’s not an easy task. Creating a horseradish condiment requires a full day of digging, scrubbing, washing, peeling, washing, cutting, shredding, blending, pouring into jars and, finally, planting the peelings for new growth.
My sister Lanae and her husband, Dale, whom Dad mentored in all things horseradish, pushed for continuing the family horseradish tradition. And so, on a Saturday each autumn, we gather at my middle brother and sister-in-law’s rural southwestern Minnesota acreage to honor our dad with this seasonal rite.
Peelings and conversation fly. Washing machine, food processor and blender whir. Eyes water. Heads turn. And the beer stays in the fridge until the last knife is stashed away. But not always.
It’s a day that’s as much about horseradish as about family. A coming together. Building memories. Remembering Dad.
This year a new supervisor—my sister-in-law’s mother from Iowa—replaced my mom, who is no longer able to watch over the crew and count the jars. Still, Mom asked how many jars we filled. No one counted. We told her 88.
Life changes. We age. Loved ones die. But we can honor their legacy, their love—for my family via harvesting the horseradish.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling