I have this theory that if I take the right approach, the right attitude, I can trick myself into liking almost any food. The theory rests on the foundational concept that there are very few foods that actually taste ‘bad’… it usually boils down to preferences for certain textures, flavors, et cetera. And often, all that is necessary to expand our preferences, to take new tastes from foreign to familiar, is a second chance, or a third, or a fourth, along with a little mental coercion, i.e. “Mmm, okay, this is what a fig tastes like. This is what a fig issupposed to taste like, therefore this fig tastes good.” Foods that have been transformed from foes to friends via this strategy include figs, grapefruit, gouda cheese. This week, I claim another victory: beets!
Historically, I have hated beets. They are the worst of all the uninvited vegetable guests, because not only do you not want them on your plate or in your salad, but even if you remove them with your fork, they leave their essence behind. And their essence is a very conspicuous shade of purple.
So what brought beets and I to reconciliation? My new favorite thing to do on Sundays is visit the farmers’ market in Hillcrest. I know, what an embarrassingly yuppie thing to call a hobby, but what can I say? I just get lost in the experience of walking slowly through the different vendors’ stalls, tasting things with my tongue and with my eyes, and savoring the colors, taking in the details of the entire scene. And of course, eating local and organic is the trendy thing nowadays, and I am SO into following trends. (I know, it’s also legitimately good for you and good for the earth, but that’s beside the point.) So even though I can’t afford to buy local or organic 100% of the time, I try to do my part by buying a few items from the farmer’s market each week.
And this week, I was drawn in by the gold beets and yellow carrots, simply because they were so pretty looking. Per the recommendation of the nice young woman who sold me the beets, I roasted them for one hour in the oven with the carrots, tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper & fresh rosemary. Maybe it’s just my inner yuppie talking, but I swear they were the best tasting vegetables I’ve eaten all year.
Why am I sharing any of this with you? Because I like food! And also because there is something very refreshing about visiting the farmers’ market each week and remembering that food is something that grows out of the ground, to see it there with stems and leaves attached, to remember that it is planted and tended and harvested by people. And then, to choose this or that which you believe will taste good together, to take it home knowing it is fresh, to prepare it, and eat it, and enjoy it. The whole experience is personalized somehow, knowing that my beets came from a farm in Imperial Beach, just 20 miles away, that the nice young woman at the market helped to grow them and pick them and display them. A very different perspective than I’d previously had of those beets that were so offensive, invading my salad and contaminating my lettuce.
I’m so glad that I gave beets a chance, made a positive choice for the local food economy, and discovered a new favorite side dish.
Have you ever visited your local farmers market and taken a chance on an unknown food? Are there foods that you hate? I bet if you gave them a try in a new context, you might make a new food-friend.