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If Memory Serves: Pickled Beets

If Memory Serves chronicles moments from my dining past, perhaps explaining what's wrong with me.

God how I despise pickled beets.

You know, those slices of bright magenta mush that come from a can...or is it jar? Since I won't allow them in the flat, I've forgotten.

My hatred ran so deep as a child that when I spotted a serving tray of the vile root on the Detroit Lions dinner table in the film version of Paper Lion--Alan Alda's breakthrough feature which, by the way, we were watching at an actual drive-in--I reportedly said "that does it! I'm not going to play pro football after all."

Beets ruined a potential All-Pro career...assuming the NFL still takes free safeties who run the 40 in 5.7 and measure their vertical leap in the single digits.

For some reason my mom was convinced these things were good for us. But as a kid I used to dump salt over them in an effort to kill that sour purple taste--an act which, in the short run, pissed my mom off to no end and, in the long run, caused her to stop serving pickled beets.

So I won.

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Or, rather, I lost--kinda. Because of the trauma caused by preserved beets, I steered clear of the root in all forms for at least a decade after high school. Only slowly did I come to realize just how meaty and earthy fresh beets could be when roasted, how rich and warming when used in soups and how cool in salads.

My reintroduction was borscht prepared by Penn State's hospitality students. I couldn't believe it was the same thing.

If there's a lesson, it's that parents should first work with better ingredients and ease into the unpalatable commercial stuff--not the other way around.

If my mom had done that, I might allow pickled beets in my kitchen.

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