I don't remember how old I was the first time I saw a beet, but I remember it seemed important. Deep red in thick slices, it looked like cranberry jelly out of a can. I was: listening.
I'd seen this video on Sesame Street 600 to 800 times where some kids sing an upbeat yet weirdly droning song about sugar beets as we watch them go from farm through processing and end up as a handful of sugar in the hand of an old dude in a construction hat who takes a pinch, looks at the camera, and says "Sugar!" in a strange kind of way. The idea seemed promising. So why was my dad the only one interested in beets? He was stoked as hell, and my mom and sister looked at the pan full of beets like it was full of sautéed hair. Dad tore into them, thanking mom excitedly between bites. I wanted in, and said as much. "All right," she said, avoiding eye contact with a brow raised. She forked a single beet slice onto my plate.
It's common for people to cope with the monstrosities they encounter by blocking out traumatic memories, and this is the only explanation I have for why I don't more clearly remember the single bite of beet I took. But I think I remember it being a kind of horror-mixture of slimy, yet overly firm, with not so much a tartness as an explosion of fresh bile. Finishing notes were actual nausea, even after not having swallowed any of it. There was laughter and some sympathy; we all moved on with our lives. Decades passed, and I thrilled at trying new foods whenever I got the chance. I wouldn't call myself adventurous; bugs are something I'm not that interested in eating, and I've had enough tripe and tendon not to want to return to it any time soon. But I love eating and drinking stuff I've never heard of, and there are very few food items I won’t go near.
2. A FRIEND BETRAYED*
*no, not BEETrayed, Dad So, years later, as I drove my friend Adrian home from the airport after he'd left Georgetown Medical Center early after neck surgery and assured me the pain meds had him "higher than giraffe nuts," I was offered some "fuckin' amazing pickled beets" and decided I would totally go for it. I mean he sold the fuck out of them. "MAAAAaaan," he shouted, vaping furiously in the closed car because he was out of cigarettes, "whole time they were preppin' me for surgery the nurses were all 'you just gotta think of somethin' to look forward to when you get home, like your wife and kids? You got a wife and kids?' I told 'em 'FUCK no, I made some pickled beets before I left home, I'm'a think about those fuckin' pickled beets!' I been lookin' forward to these little fuckers for days, man." It made sense! Why would I not try them? For starters, pickles are fucking fantastic. This is an established fact and has been enshrined into law in most Western democracies. Secondly, I'd been a kid the only other time I'd tried beets, and surely my tastes had matured since then! Third, I'd recently heard a friend extol the virtues of a Beet Hoagie somewhere in Tulsa, and I trusted that guy well enough — why wouldn't I trust a man this excited about beets he'd pickled himself? Fourth, what kind of lousy sonofabitch doesn't toast the successful life-changing surgery of his friend with a bowl of homemade pickled beets?
I didn't throw up that night, and also I had to concentrate really hard on not throwing up that night. I felt terrible. Adrian was on fucking fire about these beets, and after one bite I couldn't even look at them for fear I'd vomit through my nose on a man who'd flown 1,000 miles with brand new steel rods surgically implanted in his neck only to share with me the thing he was more excited about than literally anything else. Having said that, I took some solace in the facts that A) it meant more pickled beets for him, and B) the chances he'd remember that I wasn't into his beets were astoundingly slim.
3. BEETS, BUT FOR DRINKING
Another dear friend, with whom I frequently explore new and exciting beers, came by my house about a year after The Curious Incident of the Beets in the Night Time with several bottles neither of us had tried before. Among them: Crane Brewing's highly regarded Beet Weiss.
I had determined by that point that despite recent and much-less-recent experiences, I was still simply incorrect about beets. Maybe I'd already felt nauseated the evening I dishonored Adrian's pickled beets. And I was only a kid that first time! What do kids even know about anything anyway? And besides, it was beer! How is it even possible to fuck up a beer
It now seems that the rest of the world is wrong about beets and I am right about them. This is the only possible explanation for this turn of events. All of you out there smugly gruffling down on bowls of these Satanic Testes, your faces, hands, and teeth stained with the horrific ignominy of these glandular monstrosities, patting yourselves on the backs about the moderate amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals you're sucking down? Pawns! Pawns of Big Beet! I’m walking a lonely road here and I accept that. I accept your derision as the public shaming that truth-tellers must face. I shall hold my head high, knowing that the succor of righteousness will strengthen my spine and drive my march onward toward a beet-free, vitamin supplement-rich existence.
The author would like to point out that Crane Brewing has an absolutely delightful selection of non-beet beers, all of which you should try.