I don’t know if there is an actual medical diagnosis for the irrational fear of beets, but if there is, I have it.
I don’t know when the fear started. I don’t recall being force-fed beets as a child. The only real negative beet-related experience I’ve ever had was in Australia.
The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.”
I’d innocently ordered a burger from a food truck. I knew enough at that point to specify that I didn’t want lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, carrots, celery, bean sprouts or radishes on it, having been surprised by some or all of these on previous orders.
I received my burger, took a huge bite and started to chew. There was an odd taste I couldn’t quite place. I glanced at the burger and didn’t notice anything right away, so I kept chewing. Then I thought, almost in passing, “That burger patty is kind of enormous.”
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one more willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip…”
Only it wasn’t all burger, it was A GIANT SLICE OF PICKLED BEET on top of a normal sized burger patty. Once this dawned on me I immediately channeled Tom Hanks from Big, dribbling pieces of beet from my mouth and desperately scrubbing my taste buds off with a napkin. There were beet stains on my face and t-shirt. I tried to spit out my own tongue.
The funny thing? I don’t even recall it tasting horrible. But because my mind was not prepared to encounter a pickled beet on a hamburger, my senses betrayed me. From that point on, beets were verboten. I began to specifically order things without beets. “I’d like a strawberry milkshake, please. No beets.” “May I please have the chicken salad sandwich on toast? Hold the beets.”
Just thinking about beets – much less pickled ones – made me break out in a cold sweat.
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot.”
A few weeks ago, I was at our local farm-stand when what did I see?
I circled the table warily, half-expecting them to leap out of their little bin, wrestle me to the ground and force themselves down my throat. They were pretty crazy looking, too – not washed, really, just caked with dirt and rubber-banded together in groups of three, deep red stems easing into leafy unkept stalks sporting that garden bed-head look all of the hip veggies are going for these days.
I wandered off to glance at the peaches hoping to throw the beets off their game. As I began to make my purchases I said, almost offhand, “Oh, and I’ll take a bunch of the beets.”
Game. Set. Match. As simple as that, I owned beets.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”
I returned home with the beets. I stared at them. They stared back. I considered various recipes. Finally I did what any self-respecting human does these days to crowd-source a question: I went to Facebook.
“Trying beets for the first time. Terrified. Suggestions?” I received all kinds of answers ranging from roasted beets to beet salad to beets with goat cheese and pistachios. All of the recipes sounded fantastic, and I half wanted to try them except for one simple fact: I honest-to-god felt menaced by a taproot.
One friend suggested borscht. I said that sounded too advanced for my early stage of beet interaction, and she offered to make me some.
I spent the next day avoiding the fridge with complex feelings of mingled guilt and fear.
Then I got a call from my friend, who proceeded to ACTUALLY stop by with homemade borscht. Now the game had gotten serious. I couldn’t NOT try it. Out of respect for the time and effort she’d put into making it for me, I had no choice.
I ceremoniously poured it into a pot, complicated slightly by the fact that I did it with my eyes closed because I couldn’t process the fact that the soup was pink. Pink soup? Could I eat pink soup? Could anyone? I began heating it, and something magical happened.
It smelled AMAZING.
Really. It smelled incredible. There were pieces of beef, potatoes and beets with sour cream mixed in. It smelled hearty and peppery and earthy and wonderful.
The first spoonful was sheer magic. The pieces of beet had the consistency of celery crossed with an onion, and tasted slightly musky, like the smell of soil at night.
I ate two bowls and would’ve gone back for a third but it was already gone – my husband, it seems, also likes borscht.
Yesterday I used a slice of raw beet in a smoothie. I’m still unnerved by how quickly it stains everything, but you have to admire a vegetable that unapologetic about its color.
“Hey, take me or leave me. Whatever. You thought I was an ugly lump of dirt with tangled stalks. Peel me and discover a red so intense no name will touch it, but it’ll haunt your dreams. Oh, and it’ll probably turn your pee pink.”
Forget peaches, Mr. Prufrock: do you dare to eat a beet?
The boxed quotes are taken from Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, a novel that takes beets VERY seriously.
This Post Has 23 Comments
mickeygomez Start with herbs. Then move to veggies.
Danny Brown Okay. I was just checking. We really do have to work on this crouton thing, though.
ginidietrich There is absolutely something singularly spectacular about fresh produce, isn’t there? Maybe one day I’ll even grow some.
mickeygomez No, I hate turnips. Except when they’re with haggis, and you can mix them with the mashed tatties.
ginidietrich ShellyKramer So it took me years to try fresh asparagus, having been scarred by the canned stuff when I was young. I finally did and I LOVE it, but that’s definitely another veggie that should come with a tiny warning label because that whole pee thing was just unexpected and worrisome until I figured out what was going on. GAH!
Danny Brown HOW ARE WE FRIENDS? Because THAT’S just crazy talk. Next thing you know, you’re going to want me to try turnips.
AmyVernon I’m cautiously optimistic, but not quite ready for the pickled ones yet.
By the way, my alternate working title for this post was Heartbreak Beet. Thought you might appreciate that.
mickeygomez Croutons are only there to leave the mice something to eat overnight.
Danny Brown Look, we all know that salads are simply there to allow us to eat more croutons.
Beets are awesome. Pickled or otherwise. I am so glad you overcame your fear. <3
mickeygomez You never had rice in a salad? You haven’t lived!!
ShellyKramer It’s like asparagus making your pee smell funny.
I AM SO PROUD OF YOU! I love beets! Not the pickled kind like you encountered. Or the kind that comes out of a can. But the fresh kind from the farmer’s market. So. Good.
Beets are far too wise to use questionable hairbrushes. However, I’ve heard they do use heaps of product.
I used to be the SAME WAY with onions. And when I’d go out of the way to order something without onions, I’d get attitude. “Do you see any onions in the picture?” “No, but then I’ve never gotten anything from this place that looks even remotely like the picture.” Pause. “Fair enough.” I mean, onions aren’t like salt and pepper.
That “garden bed-head look”. So, asking for a friend, did they have an ugly encounter with a hair brush?
I love your description of how you would order things specifically without beets because “what if they just slide some in there?” I still do the same thing, only with onions. It makes me irrationally angry when a menu lists out all of the ingredients in something but doesn’t feel the need to mention that there are onions in it. I’ve heard “Oh, well yeah, there are onions in it – that wasn’t mentioned?” NO! You mentioned the carrots, the lettuce, the corn – literally everything else BUT the onions! So, now I do the same thing that you do. Oh, I’ll have the frosted flakes – I don’t know if there are onions in that, but if there are, keep them away from me!
Beets are the finest vegetables on the planet, bar none. Grab some sliced beets, put amongst a salad, let the colour invade the lettuce, grated cheese and rice, and away we go. 🙂
I believe you were the one who first warned me about that as I was seeking social media input regarding beets. They really should list that on the warning label.
I have no particular feelings about beets. But I am glad for their existence for no other reason than they gave you something to write about. I gotta tell ya, though, as someone who’s had blood in his pee for realsies, that particular aspect of beetiness is not my favorite.
ShellyKramer I’m learning. I don’t know that I’m quite ready for pickled beets yet, but that borscht was incredible. I think next up is going to be roasted, then roasted with goat cheese and pistachios. There’s also a salad in a nearby restaurant with beets and strawberries, I believe, so I may have to try that, too.
I love beets. It’s a lifelong affair, really. And their color doesn’t intimidate me – it makes me laugh. Like the next morning, when I go to the bathroom. Now THAT’S fun!!