When Silence Was (and Beets Weren’t) Golden

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Boz: “Treats? Uh, I don’t think so.”

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.

pickled beets krinkle cutFresh 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.

Portrait of beet booster: Talking back about the great taste of fresh golden beets.

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

Preparation:

  1. Trim off beet tops (beet greens make a great wilted salad)
  2. Wash beets
  3. Place cleaned whole beets in baking dish
  4. Roast in oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes
  5. Remove from oven and place foil over top and let beets cool
  6. Foil creates steam, making peels easy to remove
  7. Serve sliced at room temperature with salt and pepper.

Options:

  • 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

33 COMMENTS

  1. You are a very funny man. Yes-you should be in Vegas. Dratted parents-always thwarting our potentials and feeding vile food. LOL!

    And my mother would have applied LIBERAL amounts of butter to this dish!

    🙂

  2. Did you grow those beets from seed or from starts? And where did you get the seeds/starts?

    I am looking for more variety in my garden next year…. this year my out-of-the-ordinary crop is brussel sprouts.

    • Heidi, I find sowing directly in the soil a little problematic, with germination spotty and crows pulling up the earliest sprouts. My solution is to plant beet seedlings. So I plant seeds en masse in a pot or planting tray, using a soil-less seeding mixture, and water when dry. Just spread out seeds, they can be crammed in and close as they won’t be there long. I wait for the beet leaves to be about as tall as my finger and with 4-6 leaves on each and then gently remove them from the pot and plant them directly in rows. I suggest planting in the evening when things cool down and they have the 12 hours to adjust before bright sun. Water well at first. Works like a dream.

  3. Oh… your beets are so beautiful! Everything in my garden has suffered this summer due to the weather — beets included. I did roast some beets last weekend, but they were very small; nothing like yours.

  4. funny story about Penny reminds me of when I was relegated to the kitchen to finish my liver..ackkk. My cat ate one bite so I proceeded to toss liver bites over my shoulder thinking she was eating them as I did, imagine my horror when my mother came in and I turned around to see my cat sitting amidst a sea of liver bites! I was so busted…
    and yes, golden beets roasted are the BEST!!!

  5. This is great! In first grade I agonized for three hours over creamed chipped beef on toast. I don’t think children are forced to clean their plates anymore–too busy sending text messages!! But that’s another story!!

  6. LMAO on headlining in Vegas! I believe it, but think you’re far, far happier where you are. 😉 Thank goodness for dogs that like beets (and veggies in general) and understanding moms who keep secrets and adjust the dinner menu to save their children! Your fresh beets looks spectacular, Tom. 🙂

    Shirley

  7. Great story about (not) eating beets as a kid! My parents gave me lots of bad advice too. Some I followed to my detriment, some I ignored, once I was old enough. And my mom served those same disgusting canned beets, which I refused to eat. I still can’t get past them to growing and eating real beets, even though I’m told they’re wonderful. Maybe some day.

  8. Another great story, and fantastic beet growing tips. I will be empolying those tactics for my fall golden beet planting.

  9. wow, such a stern figure; but I guess it was his germanic upbringing; I never forced my kids to eat anything they just ate whatever. Anyway, glad you don’t hate beets anymore, I love them, in Lebanon there is a salad with tarator sauce and beets to die-for, yummm! I feel like making some now; lucky you get yours so fresh!!!

  10. i, for one, am very glad you listened to your father. if his pruning of you as a child was a bit rigid and unskilled, still it brought you to where you are now and that seems pretty damn good to me! thanks for putting your thoughts into writing. scratch the bully for me, i you will. 🙂

    • Janet, trust me when I say I look like Freddie Kruger in most of my photos. Here are my not so secret secrets to taking decent self-portraits.
      1. Use a tripod or gorilla clip to stabilize the camera, and adjust accordingly.
      2. Filtered light is best, not strong shadows
      3. Take a bazillion photos. It’s digital so what do you have to loose, just be sure to delete the bad ones later. They could fall in the wrong hands.
      4. Place on self-timer and add option for multiple shots if camera has feature.
      5. Edit the hell out of them. I use Picnik.com — great service, free or upgrade is available too.
      There you have it, and it’s not so much about how you take photos, as how many photos you take. My current ratio: for every 50, I’ll have one that doesn’t frighten dogs or make babies cry. And those are the ones I post.
      PS–And thanks for that nice smile comment, I brush regularly and shave occasionally — seems to be paying off! 😉

  11. Tom,
    I am with you why bother eating canned vegetables? You’ve always had a fine palate!
    Good heavens your doggie took care of it and peace was restored in the family!
    Love this post, it brings back memories from my own childhood.
    Cheers!
    Heguiberto

  12. Totally identified with the young Tommy’s beet story! I STILL cannot eat beets! Yuk! Yuk! Yuk! Beets or liver in any fashion what so ever! Amazing how some things we just don’t grow out of…

    • Dianne, as a Southern girl, I’m sure you had some lima beans on those plates as a child; how do you feel about those? (Icks-nay on the imalay eansbay.)

  13. We were lucky – we never had to eat anything my dad didn’t like and he didn’t like most vegetables! I discovered beets last year – fresh, roasted are just heaven. I sneak golden beets into stews so my kids dont know they are eating the dreaded veggie!

  14. Hola Tom,

    How I miss visiting you. Your post make me smile.

    I had never have a golden beet or seen one.

    You are looking good with all that great food.

    Keep having fun in the garden.

    Mely

    PS. I needed that tip about the apple added to the jam.

  15. Oh yes, ours was a Clean Plate Club house, too, which usually wasn’t a problem for me – I seemed to like everything that was on my plate… even canned beets, although I did ask to have them put on a separate plate so they wouldn’t get all my other food that ugly purplish red color. Eww! I’ve been reading for a while – love your blog. You’re a gifted writer!

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