I like to think I’ve always enjoyed vegetables — especially those others would prefer didn’t exist, let alone show up on their dinner plates. The what are those, how does one prepare them, cook, or eat them vegetables. But my perspective was limited early on by what so many of ours has been: the availability and affordability of certain types of fresh vegetables as well as what our mothers actually served us.
Which brings me to beets.
The only beet I recall sitting on my dinner plate was a deep magenta slice of somewhat gelatinous matter not too unlike the canned cranberry sauce sliced and served at our holiday turkey dinners. It was smaller in circumference and served with iceberg lettuce suggesting it was a salad. My mother might tell me otherwise, but I’d also venture a guess cottage cheese was involved — or something white — and remembering our fridge, know that had to be it. Creamy, soft goat’s cheese, salty feta, or crumbly cotija would not have been regulars in our cheese drawer which housed my stepfather’s sacred box of Velveeta, a wax-covered package of American cheese slices, and a green can of Kraft Parmesan.
I never learned to enjoy the taste or texture of those beets, an odd combination of sour and sweet and something I thought should be warm instead of cold. Years and years would pass before I learned of how one friend enjoyed them — from jars with spooned sauce drizzled over a homemade chicken pot pie hot from the oven. I can hear her now singing the dish’s praises with the accent her small town Texas roots provided her, and remember watching the respective juices ooze and mingle across the bowl she served the meal in.
I did not want a bite regardless of how happy she was about the idea and suspect she knew it was an odd favorite, goading me to take a bite. I loved her in spite of that beet fiasco because don’t we all have at least one oddball of a dish we secretly enjoy?
Since that time, I’m embarrassed to admit that as much as I realize how good beets are for my body, I still have not quite learned to fully enjoy them. I see them among the other vegetables I routinely purchase and pass them by unless I see rainbow beets, or golden beets. Somehow their beautiful color tempts me to stop and wonder an extra second or two before I give in and throw them in the basket, giving them the benefit of my persistent doubt. But rarely do I consider picking up a bunch of red beets unless I’ve seen a recipe somewhere that suggests I might reconsider trying them. And I’m still reconsidering, because I do try them, then decide not to share the recipe. What favorable comments might I make when the recipe isn’t what’s lacking, but my palate?
Beets leave me thinking that sure, the flavor is okay, and possibly bordering on pleasant, but I can’t shake the memory of those Harvard beets years ago sitting on my lettuce and making everything pink. We’ll call this salad made of roasted golden beets with arugula and sorrel picked from my sad excuse of an herb box a truce of sorts. My continuing attempt to enjoy beets.
I’m not quite there yet, but maybe.