Welcome to Second Ferment! Wine pairs well with life ... and food, travel, people, work and play. Grab a glass and join me as I explore the wine scene in Ottawa, Canada, and beyond. Love hearing from my readers, so please leave a comment or drop me a line. Cheers! - Bethany

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Root (vegetable) of All Evil

Oh, lowly beet. You of the unfortunate reputation, you, the unjustly maligned root vegetable, sadly lumped in with the likes of Brussels sprouts, kale and lima beans on most people's "yuck" list ... including mine. Until recently.

My revulsion of beets stems from the pickled variety done up by my maternal grandmother. Nanny's pickled beets were set down with the olives, relish, pearl onions and pickles for Sunday night dinners, passed around the table in its appropriate Depression-glass serving dish. If one of those gawd-awful purple globes so much as looked at the black olives funny, I wanted nothing to do with any of them, and handed the plate off to the next person while holding my breath.

I have matured (somewhat) since then, and my recent experiences with beets has greatly improved my opinion of this misunderstood vegetable.

Last summer's dinner at Hillebrand was the first time I tried Chioggia beets - small, brightly-coloured and candy-sweet, they complimented my roasted rabbit and tasted positively blissful. I had a few more dinners out involving beets, and enjoyed snapping up the grilled and roasted ones served at the salad bar at work. Suddenly, beets didn't seem so bad after all. On the contrary, they were delicious.

I promised myself that I would stop by the Lansdowne market and pick up some beets, but kept putting it off. Finally, over the weekend, I grabbed a few small ones at the Loblaws for dinner that night (checking first for the "grown close-to-home" label, of course. If I can't make it to the local market, the least I can do is buy Ontario or Canada.)

Now to cook them. I turned to Delia Smith's How To Cook, a duo of books designed with novice chefs in mind (read: I kept screwing up boiling an egg before I read her book.) I got them at my wedding shower (thanks, Mum!), but only recently discovered just how useful they really were. Delia never lets me down; the proper instructions on how to cook beets were neatly printed out in plain language (an HOUR?? Are you KIDDING?? I'm starving NOW!!) .

I fudged a bit on the timelines and tossed them on the grill for the last 10 minutes, with pleasant results. Even the Doodle was intrigued enough to try some - they were purple, after all. I'll give her credit, it made it to her lips before her nose wrinkled at the smell and the fork was abruptly dropped on the plate. Oh well, she tried it.

That smell ... what immediately comes to mind is the trailer where my Nanny lived, the trailer that housed the kitchen in which she made those self-same pickled beets I found so noxious once upon a time. I can picture the green-trimmed shed at the back of the yard, with a riot of dahlias growing in the side garden, their pet miniature schnauzer barking up a storm.

The second image is of standing at the edge of the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara. That wet stone and damp earth flavour of cooked beets coats the tongue the same way the mist does as it fills the air over Clifton Hill, the parkway and the Gorge.

Two memories, completely unrelated to one another, yet sharing the same olfactory base as the loathed beet. Funny how that works.

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