Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Dia de los Muertos 2011

Ahh, beets.

Alex grew these beets in the planter box on the sunny side of the front yard. They're all prepped and ready for oven-frying.

We peel them and slice them a little less than half an inch thick, then toss the slices with extra virgin olive oil, then once again with garlic powder. Spread out on a cookie sheet, they're lightly sprinkled with sea salt. After 30 - 35 minutes in a 425 degree oven, they're ready to devour.

When Alex decided that she had to plant beets last spring, I didn't dissuade her. Thought she was nuts, but hey, whatever. The front garden boxes were her canvas for experimentation, not mine. When she told me that beet greens make a good salad, I scoffed -- until I pulled off a beet leaf and tasted it. Where had beets as salad greens been all my life? Good thing she planted them thickly: eating the greens in our salads was the perfect way to thin the crop.

I hadn't done much beeting around since we moved to California. They tend to be expensive here, and I'm not often impressed with the quality. Now that Alex has proven herself to be a worthy beet farmer, though, I'm looking forward to greater beetery.

What do beets have to do with Dia de los Muertos, a day for remembering your dead relatives and friends?

When I was in my twenties, I would often mooch jars of pickled beets from my mother. She was picky about her beets, which she bought in quantity. "Lutz is the variety to look for," she lectured me. "Lutz are nice and tender, hold their color, and taste the best of all." And then she would proceed to make the most delectable pickled beets in the entire world. Sweet, flavorful, crisp -- there was never any argument about eating enough beets. We truly could not get enough.

She learned the process of pickling beets from Dad's aunt, who was called "Sis." Mom pretty much learned all her cooking skills from Sis; she told me she pestered Sis to teach her how to cook because Sis was slowly dying, and Mom on her own had almost enough culinary skills to boil eggs. In my turn, I learned from Mom how to make lima bean pot pie, meat pie, pumpkin pie (did we never eat anything but pie?) and macaroni salad, and of course, lots of other things.

But the one thing I didn't learn how to make was pickled beets.

I don't know why I didn't; maybe she didn't have a recipe per se, or maybe Dad refused to eat some. Or maybe some part of me just assumed that Mom would always be there to make them for me. I don't recall her making them in the last 30 years of her life.

Seeing Alex's harvest of gorgeous beets made Bernie and I remember how good Mom's were, made me remember my mother in a time when Alzheimer's hadn't made her an ill-mannered stranger.

Miss that Mom so much.


Lydia Manx said...

I pickled beets three winters ago I am pretty sure. Check the site and there's a decent recipe for pickled beets with onions. My mom insisted all the best beets have onions. When I planted the plot in the back for my dad I put in a row or two of beets. Not sure variety but my fave were the ones that are shaped like a carrot not the round globes. Dad likes beet greens with bacon - naturally.

Tweetywill said...

Wow - I grew up eating beet greens, though not in a salad. They were boiled like spinach and topped with butter and salt and pepper. Emily does use them green in salads though, and I love them that way even more. I also grew up eating them pickled, and even better: beet jelly. The natural sugars in the beets make a very delicious jelly. I can ask the parents if they have a recipe they can share.