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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Red Revanche: The Dreaded Beet Makes a Comeback

I have decided it is time to be bossy -- a food fascist if you will: We start this week with me telling you what to do. (Nothing new about that, you mutter darkly under your collective breaths.)


Off we go. Rule One: never eat a lot of beets. Funny things happen to your digestive system, as I discovered this week. I have been experimenting and as there was no one else around to sample my morsels, I ate a lot of the little red vegetables on my own.


Not quite Dire Consequences, but troubling none the less.


Now that is not meant to put you off! Goodness, what an opening to a column. But I have been having a fresh look at these veggies, and despite overeating, I have come to the conclusion that they aren't bad at all.


This was not always the case. I eschewed them for years. Back even before I knew how to spell the word "eschew" and certainly years before I could pronounce it.


Seaforth Primary School lunches. We had what was called a "tuck shop" where once or twice a week you were permitted to spend your precious 10 cents worth of pocket money on something your mother did not make. Our tuck shop (like a stolovaya without the gunk) was a severe little brick building located down the bottom of the school, just in front of the cricket pitch.


I don't quite understand the system, but I think the tuck shop was run by volunteer mothers. Generally scary, certainly a tad more authoritarian than my own mother. They were forever nagging you to invest your precious hoard in a selection of healthy salad sandwiches rather than the pink-icing finger buns and potato chips which is what you had always planned to eat.


Every now and then you found a timid one who let you get away with the lunch of your dreams, but most times they foisted the dreaded salad sandwich into your lunch box.


There was always something wrong with these sandwiches, and it didn't require much analysis to spot their weak point.


As I am now in the catering business of sorts, I understand the value of advanced planning, or making your sambies ahead of time. (I have 500 people popping over for drinkies and nibbles next Friday, and right now my kitchen is more like a battle command center than a genteel place of saute, simmer and slice.)


But the ladies who ran our tuck shop always made the salad sandwiches way too far in advance. So far in advance that I couldn't think of the word "salad" without the other dread description -- soggy -- appearing not a split second later in my thought patterns. Naturally the culprit (in case you were wondering when I was going to get back to beets) was that great red and slimy orb. It stained everything else in the sandwich pink and made it all soft.


Beet, I thought, was the command to beat one's sibling around the face and neck (and particularly the white shirt) with the sliced vegetable once it had been plucked from the sandwich. I can still remember the first time I held one up to the light: I was so shocked, I dropped it in the grass. It had veiny bits in it! Bleck. Altogether a no-starter in the salad stakes.


And they stayed out of my salads until just a few months ago.


What! You never ate borshch?


Not if I could help it, although I did appreciate the vivid color before anyone swirled in the smetana. But I will save the borshch recipe for later. This week you will have to contend with my remedy for soggy sandwiches. Keep the soft white bread well away and eat them instead with toast.





Pickled Beets


1 1/2 cups fresh beets, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes


1 large piece fresh orange rind


1 cup red wine vinegar





Place the beets in a medium sized pot of lightly salted water. Add the orange rind. Bring to the boil and cook until tender. Depending on the size of your pot, the gas supply, the time of the full moon or just about any factor you care to mention, this could take between 20 and 40 minutes.


Drain and remove orange rind.


Transfer the beets to a glass jar, cover them to the brim with the red wine vinegar and let them cool. Stir. This may be done up to one month in advance.


Cover the jar and keep in the fridge.


Remove with deft fingers, chopsticks or about-to-be-stained paws, and accompany with toast. That way, the telltale stains just won't show.