eat well & be kind: beets aren’t so bad, neither are people

I mean the message on this sticker in the most earnest sort of way: eat well and be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, just slow down and give yourself and everyone else a break. It’s a harsh world out there sometimes, you know?

And eat “well” does not mean the same thing to everyone, but you can’t really disagree that vegetables, generally speaking, are good for you. Especially beets–which I used to haaaaaate.

The smell alone made me gag. The dark, red color looked more sinister than nutritious. And the taste, when I could be coerced into eating a bite, mixed dirt-flavor with sweet. The defiant texture took all my willpower to swallow.

I worked hard to love beets. It took me about three years of trying. There’s a lesson here about humanity and learning how to get along. I’m just not sure how it translates.

With beets, it started with knowledge. I started studying food to create a Food Studies course at the college where I taught. In that process, I learned about beets and why some people referred to them as a “super food.” My research also sparked a belief in me that you are what you eat, that improving the way I ate could improve the quality of my life.

I still believe this, and my faith in the nutritional magic of beets motivated me to learn to like them.

Maybe our belief in each other as basically good human beings can motivate us to learn to like people different than us? Maybe it’s harder with people. With beets, it started with my mother-in-law’s recipe and then moved to horseradish.

My mother-in-law visited us when I was first learning about beets, and she simmered some with orange juice. I’m sure there was more to it. Maybe raisins? Whatever she did–the beets didn’t smell bad, their texture was soft and juicy, and I didn’t gag.

Next, a colleague told me to roast them and then drizzle them (or maybe dip them?) in horseradish. I loved this idea. But, inexplicably, while I love wasabi, I find ANY form of the white horseradish unbearably, painfully hot. But I didn’t mind the roasted beets. Again, I didn’t gag.

Lastly, at the farmer’s market, I bumped into the chioggia beet. It looks like a giant peppermint candy. The vendor gave me a slice … RAW…!! Beets raw? I loved it instantly. No smell. No bad texture. Sweet and crunchy like a carrot.

Now, I eat deep, red beets and their dark, green leaves at least a couple of times a month. I find myself craving them. Maybe it’s an infusion of iron. Maybe it’s all in my imagination. But the feeling of wellness and strength is real and it powers my efforts to be a good human, even as I figure out what that means day by day.

I’m not saying you have to like beets. But if you don’t like them, I think you need to try them again. Maybe once a year. A different recipe each time. Just to see. Just to check in. Just to stay open. Open to changing your mind or kindly accepting your tastes just as they are.

Let what you think you loathe have a chance to show you a different side, so while you might reject one part (the smell of the beet or your neighbor’s politics) you might embrace another part (the beet’s greens or your neighbor’s generosity).

5 Comments

  1. This reminds me of a saying Rosie’s preschool teachers instilled in her from a young age: Tastes change everyday. If you don’t like something today, it doesn’t mean you won’t like it tomorrow. This saying has come in extremely handy over the years as various vegetables and foods appear and reappear on her plate. And it’s exciting to leave the door open to change, instead of dreading it.

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    1. I remember reading that it takes close to 30 days for taste buds to change. It took me almost that long to drop my Dorito chip habit, which then made less processed foods taste great (not bland by comparison). And yes—it’s exciting to leave the door open to change instead of dreading it. I love that.

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  2. I really enjoyed your newsletter today, Trista.

    You really enjoyed beets when you were a baby. Others couldn’t understand how I could give them to you, and how you seemed to love them. (The same with spinach.)

    Love the stickers!

    >

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    1. I’m glad you love the stickers!! I wonder if eating beets as a little one set up my palate to accept them later. Thanks for feeding me healthy food, Mom!!!!

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  3. I have an eating disorder ARFID. Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. There are many things I find repulsive. Sometimes food I have enjoyed suddenly become repulsive for a while. I have had it all my life. Hard to explain. Hard to live with.

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