After my last post I was surprised how many comments I received from followers who really don’t like beets at all – canned or fresh. Many of you wrote that I will never be able to change your mind. One of you likened the taste of beets to dirt! (I happen to agree, but let’s at least call it soil – nutrient and mineral-rich-fresh-tasting-after-a-gentle-spring-rain soil.) Still, I feel like I have to at least finish my canned-beets story because believe me, no one hated beets (canned beets) more than I. But it’s only because beets and I got off on the wrong foot.
If I can find some love for this jeweled, bedazzled vegetable, well, then, maybe one of you might change your mind too. So if you promise to just hang tight, follow me back to my childhood home, back in time to my early disgust of this rat-tailed root, I promise you cake next time. A deep, rich, chocolate cake for which you don’t even need to pull out the heavy equipment. Truly, all you need is a bowl, a wooden spoon and some light mixing. Ok? Deal? Here we go……
Back to that night at the dinner table, winter 1978-ish….
I sat there at the round, wood table while my mother dried and put away the last of the pots and pans. The colonial-style chair back went way above my head – its’ dowels pushed into my spine.
Leaning back against that chair, I watched my legs dangle and I was enjoying myself for a bit – swaying them from side-to-side, bumping the insides of my heels together. I was making my own fun pumping my legs out and back in as if I were outside, on the other side of the back door, just a few feet away, in the backyard, on my swing going higher and higher.
Every once in awhile she’d bring me back to the darkness of the kitchen table, to the red-ringed thick slices of what appeared to have once been part of a gummy, Alice-in-Wonderland-type-tree-trunk stiffening on my plate.
C’mon Kat. I’m almost finished with the dishes. Do you really want to sit here all night…all by yourself?
I shrunk my body as best as I could, trying to hide somewhere deeper into the chair where every time I shifted from one butt cheek to the other, the small bones in my spine rubbed themselves raw against the spindly spines of the chair, which, by the way, had grown even larger at this time, I’m pretty sure.
She hung up the dish towel on the oven door, clicked on the light in the hood above the stove, made her eyes big at me as if she were going to try one last time to will me to cooperate, to cave, to shove those beets into my mouth at last.
She turned out the light and left quietly – I had to strain to hear her footsteps meet the couch where my father sat at one end – his end by the lamp.
And then I heard it. The opening song to the Muppet Show.
It’s time to play the music/It’s time to light the lights/It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.
Only it was louder than usual! My legs began to pump in my chair faster and faster. I fidgeted and felt myself growing wild! The chair was beginning to feel hot! I was the marshmallow at this twisted camp fire!
It’s time to put on make-up/ It’s time to dress up right/ It’s time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight.
It was Tuesday night! I had to see Miss Piggy karate chop the live grown-up guest!
Oh they were really playing dirty this time!
It’s time to get things started on the most Sensational! Inspirational! Celebrational! Muppetational!
Without thinking, I stabbed a beet with my fork, the butter had turned into little hard chips of greasy yellow! The blob wriggled. It was all so cold…so gross!
I grabbed the bloody purplish mound of ick and pulled it off the fork with my teeth and with my bite’s first puncture into its flesh, it throbbed, it pulsed…it had a heartbeat!
This is what we call the Muppet Show!!!!!!
I gagged and threw myself down on the floor and sobbed and kicked at having been so broken! Mom came running in only to find her five-year-old daughter in a pile of plaid and embroidered bell-bottom jeans on the orange and brown linoleum floor. She picked me up and cradled me in her arms. It was over.
And now I really like fresh beets! Especially over a small plate of mixed greens with the following Orange Dressing adapted from Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Slow Cooker cookbook:
- 1-2 navel oranges
- 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Grate about 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest into a medium bowl. Halve the oranges and squeeze until you have 1/3 cup juice. Add the juice to the bowl along with 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, the oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until blended. Add the leftover sliced beets to the bowl and toss well. Adjust seasonings as you like. Crumble a little soft goat cheese over the top of the greens then pour the beets in the orange dressing over both greens and cheese and go grab a fork because lunch is served!