Doing Something I Swore I’d Never Do

A picture of beets, metaphor to follow: a testament to my blossoming self-acceptance


There is something about cooking beets that makes me impatient. It is probably some combination of the fact that A: I love them when they are Food Cooked Elsewhere; B: I don’t like them at home, and C: their red/pink/magenta watermark is really pretty, but threatening, as in, it’s going to stain me.

And so when I pick up my CSA share and find that, yet again, it includes a nice big bunch of raggety beets, I am tempted to leave them there on the porch for someone who loves them un-ambivalently, but my man adores them so….and so…..home they go.

I know about beets. I mean, come on, it’s not rocket science. I know they can be roasted, boiled, baked, braised. I choose to boil them.

First, I scrub them, guiltily remove the greens (Oh my god, they’re the best part, and so EASY!, says Mara, the King of Darkness, laming me out for being lazy).

Then I put them in cold salted water and turn the flame on high. Fork tender, fork tender. Those words trail through the 30 or so minutes I ditter away near the beets as they cook. Doing dishes, checking in with one of my favorite kitchen gods—Mark, Alice, Martha, Heidi. Chatting on the phone, readying the rest of my meal. Fork tender, fork tender. I pierce the beets, close enough.

I bring the pot over to the sink and recall all the chit chat I have heard/read about this part: rinse under cold water and the skin should come right off.


I have to take out the paring knife and slice off pieces of stuck skin. The beet is no longer round, but a bit lopped off, flat in parts. I start cutting up the funky little things for a salad or whatever and surprise, surprise, the outside edge is soft, fork tender, easy to slice, and the inside, gritty and hard. My hands are getting pink, little flakes of beet body are spraying around the sink wall. God I hate these things! Fuck beets!

So imagine my surprise when, last Wednesday, the day after the CSA pick up, I cooked the beets for longer than usual (45 minutes?), even adding some extra water, and the skin came right off. Zero muss, zilcho fuss. I have four fat little perfect jewels sitting in the fridge in a pyrex container, slicing ready. Pleasure incarnate.

The whole thing was so tidy I think I can even skip the scrubbing. I mean, the skin comes right off, and with a good rinse, the beet will be clean enough and ready to do its job.

So what is it I swore I would never do, and just did, a testament to my blossoming self-acceptance?

I guess you could call it: indulging in the cheesy-ness of using a food metaphor to say this: girl, let the shit cook. In other words, slow down. Like, waaaaaay down. I use my life all the time as a way of understanding how to practice, where I am lost in the weeds, how to free myself, and I write about it, for a living (barely), I might add. But there is something about the cute little cooking insight that I find just so Chicken Soup for the Soul and, thus, irritates/embarrasses me. But what can I say? I have been thinking about the Beet incident a lot, and I feel like there is something here, something big, something soft (fork tender) and something lasting.

As usual, there is all kinds of relational confusion in my life (who am I in relation to….). And yet, in the privacy of my own world, things are good, really good. It’s not just my daughter’s bathing suits hanging all over the house, or the juicy black plums, or the messy backyard late night beverage (ok, I haven’t quit smoking!), or tennis lessons, or the crazy July dusk, or this or that. It’s some kind of gentleness that is in between all of it and keeps rising up, even in the midst of worry and various self-seeking missions. Maybe I am kind of happy just to be alive, and to cook.