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Beets

Tom Robbins wrote of this often maligned and misunderstood vegetable.


"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. The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sail of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth, now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies".

What on earth was he trying to say, I wonder, but I like his attitude. And perhaps that's what he was saying after all. Very few of us are middle of the road when presented with the offer to have a beet. It's SURE or UGH.

My theory for those that don't like beets is that they were force fed some canned or otherwise ruined beets as children, which of course accounts for so many of the foods we detest as adults.

I want you to try beets in a way you may not have yet. Go to one of the juice bars in your area and ask for a small glass of juiced beets. This nectar will astonish you with its natural sweetness. You will think sugar was mixed into it. Or, if you like to cook, buy fresh, raw beets still in their jackets. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees and wrap the beets in aluminum foil. Cook them un-peeled until just tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove the foil and when they are cool enough to handle, peel them. Try them with a little salt, pepper and butter or olive oil.

Beets. It's an attitude thing.



Shad Roe

I grew up in a pretty food savvy family, especially on my mother's side. Kind of amazing since we are predominately Scotch-Irish on that end and our countrymen have a weak résumé as far as cuisine is concerned. But my clan was different. While many of our Northern Illinois neighbors were just beginning to contemplate breaking out the fishing boats in late April, to be among the first to bring home a bass, we would waiting for a package to arrive from my Aunt Jane in New York. It would be the first shad roe of the season.

It's an East Coast thing. Some seafood permeates the broader cultures of America and some do not. People in Kansas know about Stone Crabs but Shad Roe, reminiscent as it is of liver, will never make the mainstream. That's fine. It leaves more of it for those of us who love it. I've eaten the fish that brings us her roe as well. To say the least, it was not a prized fish by the first settlers of the country. Even though the Latin name is sapidissima, which means "most delicious" many felt they would consume it only if you could get your hands on some salt pork. Ouch!

Aunt Jane sent some of it along with the roe but it never peaked my interest. The cooking chore for this was generally divided between my mother and my grandmother. Both of them being native New Yorkers, it was an act of civic pride as much as feeding the family. The roe are encased in a rather delicate membrane that easily ruptures. To help "set" the roe they would place the roe sacs in a bowl and pour hot water over them. Meanwhile they would cook up several rashers of bacon. The roe were lightly floured and then pan-fried, (yes we still used the word "fried" with total equanimity back then) in the bacon drippings and served with the bacon and lemon wedges on freshly buttered toast. We'd all raise a glass to Aunt Jane and know that the bass would come soon enough.




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