I don’t deny as a kid I was a little different (I’ll keep adulthood out of this debate), but in my trek to avoid the beaten path I also knew there were situations warranting a walk down the straight and narrow. Such detour awareness usually involved the presence of my father. As a no-nonsense man of few words, he would often remind me sternly, “Tommy, no one likes a smart aleck.” I later learned (through personal experience) that everyone actually loves a smart aleck. To this day, I assert that had I not listened to him, I’d be headlining in Vegas.
His other rules of child-adult engagement included the belief that children should be seen and not heard, and that talking back to your elders was not an option. And so my story begins…
Rhinestone cowboy taken down in his prime by backtalk and a canned root vegetable.
My Mother is a gifted and generous cook, but somehow that evening she served the most vile of vegetables: canned beets. I winched as the syrup-thick juice ran to the center of my plate, polluting every other tasty morsel in its wake. I was doomed; this was the era of the clean plate club, and in our household I was a draftee not a volunteer.
With beets untouched before me and dessert melting on the counter, my Dad said, “Hurry up, and eat your beets.” In a moment of reckless abandon and believing that my father’s wrath was more palatable than a plate of beets, I said, “But I don’t like them. They taste horrible.”
As I looked to my sister for support, I realized she had choked her beets down using the I’ll-hold-my-breath-and-swallow-them-whole method, chased by a wash-it-down-with-a-large-glass -of-milk palate cleansing.
My father was quick to dispatch his opinion on children (especially his own) talking back , and sentenced me to no ice cream and a forced exile at the kitchen table until the beets were gone and my plate was clean. How was I going to get out of this? I envisioned this second-grader’s skeleton covered in cobwebs hunched over the kitchen table, my family passing the corn flakes carefully, so as not to disturb my brittle dry bones and plate of leather-dry beets.
After what seemed an eternity of plate pondering and beet juice finger painting, I looked down to Penny, our exceptional Boston Terrier. I sought her counsel (telepathically, of course) and she responded by licking her chops. (Brilliant Penny, brilliant!) I happily stabbed each beat with my fork, and then lowered the root of all evil to my all-too-eager Pal.
Fresh crinkle-cut pickled beets: a far cry from the days of punishment in a can
Penny finished every last one and so, saved my life and brought order back to the family. My father smug in his perceived victory, needled me with, “See that wasn’t so bad, was it?” My intuitive mother knew better, and honored me by never serving beets again.
In bed, staring at the ceiling, I knew I had dodged a bullet. As I closed my eyes, and drifted off to a land of cowboys and Indians, pirates and flying carpets, my peace was broken. My father’s voice ricocheting down the hallway to my bedroom, “Oh Hell, Penny just threw up something, something purple…TOMMY!” Even Penny couldn’t stomach those nasty orbs. Her choice of re-distribution was most unfortunate: the living room beige carpet.
The good news is I’ve grown up (emotional scares have healed, I think), and I no longer have the palate of a seven-year-old. As a changed man, I really like beets, but only fresh beets, and especially golden beets. I grew golden beets for the first time this year and have to say they are something special, my variety of choice: Touchstone.
Recipe: Roasted Golden Beets
Ingredients: 5-6 Golden (or purple) beets
- small beets, say the size of a lemon or lime, are more tender
- Trim off beet tops (beet greens make a great wilted salad)
- Wash beets
- Place cleaned whole beets in baking dish
- Roast in oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes
- Remove from oven and place foil over top and let beets cool
- Foil creates steam, making peels easy to remove
- Serve sliced at room temperature with salt and pepper.
- drizzle with favorite salad dressing
- drizzle with balsamic vinegar
- drizzle with Asian sweet chili sauce (love this stuff)
- crumble with blue cheese
- add to a salad
- add to a sandwich