This, my thanksgiving for beets, a veritable shout out to this colourful cousin of the mangelwurzel, is hard-earned and not to be taken lightly.
I grew up with pickled beets on the table more often than not, and everyone in the family loved the vegetable that sent them into temporary terrors of internal apocalyptic diseases upon post-consumption evacuations (you know, beeturia), but I never did come to like or appreciate this most humble of roots.
I always thought I should like beets. Each time they were before me, I gingerly set into one. And, without exception, that first bite reminded me that beets tasted like dirt. Just. Like. Dirt.
Beet greens? One of my very favourite side dishes! I even craved beet greens during my first pregnancy and sent him on wide, expansive searches to slake my craving. Prior to the pregnancy stage of our relationship, back before we were even co-habitatoheads, I might wake from a nap on my sofa to find mangelwurzel, Tom Robbins style, on my coffee table, but the token was never consumed.
Borscht? Also an acceptable method of beeting my distaste for simple preparations of this ruby red veg.
Try as I might, I just did not like the taste of beets.
Enter the oven-roasted medley of root vegetables served up for the evening meal of December 25, 2008. Tossed in olive oil and italian spices, topped with grated gruyere. Amidst the gentleness of fingerling potatoes, the slight bitterness of turnip, the pleasing crunch of carrots, the comfort of parsnips, was the ever-familiar taste of…yes, there were beets in them there vegetables!
The first taste was inevitably of dirt. The second taste was nuanced with something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It required a third taste. This one tasted of memories, and I was almost sure of their source. One more taste and I was there. Beets taste like Sleepy Hollow, the family camp where I spent many of my growing up hours. I’m not sure how this is, but each and every subsequent bite of beet brought me more fully back to a very rustic camp, built by my paternal grandfather, on the side of a lake. It was a place where we swam and boated, played ball in the hayfield; where we were thoroughly scratched by brambles while gathering blackberries and sat wide-legged on the work horses. It was a place where family gatherings took place. It was a place heavily imbued with the feeling of my grandparents.
Darned if those beets didn’t taste good. Just. Like. Sleepy Hollow.