What vegetable isn’t underappreciated, when you think about it? Yes, people will ooh and ahh over a terrific tomato — oh, those perfect New Jersey tomatoes in August, or the amazing beefsteak tomatoes you get at the Palm (not that you will often find me at the Palm, but when you do, I will be the guy who ordered the tomato). But tomatoes are ringers, being, as they are, members of the fruit group as well as the vegetable group. (This is what makes ketchup the indispensable food: a fruit, a vegetable, and a condiment.) Fruits are adored. The apple of his eye, a real peach, a plum of an appointment, the fruits of their labor — fruit has long had an outstanding P.R. firm. And the tomato has ridden the coattails of that good will. (In the old days: “She’s some tomato!”)
But tomatoes aside, who ever really gives vegetables their due? “He’s as dumb as an eggplant,” is the kind of imagery you get with a vegetable. Mr. Potato Head. Punch-drunk boxers with “cauliflower ears.” Children shoving spinach to the other side of their plates. Presidents eschewing broccoli. When was the last time you saw someone looking admiringly at a carrot (other than a horse)?
So I think after 949 of these daily columns it is about time — considerably past time — to say a few good things about beets.
Well, and artichokes and potatoes and all the rest of them, really, but you don’t have all morning, and I’m not getting paid for this, so let me just point out:
1. Artichokes are the ideal appetizer if you’re having a nice dinner because they take a long time to eat. (If you really like someone, dinner should be artichokes and lobster. If you really don’t: consommé and boneless filet of sole.) Nor do artichokes require melted butter, let alone that awful heavy sauce some people feel compelled to drown them in. They’re awesome just boiling (40 minutes or so) in their own juices. Be careful not to eat the chokes and kill yourself.
2. Potatoes saved the Irish and the Irish — and I don’t say this just because Charles is Irish — saved civilization. Seriously. You can read it in a book: How the Irish Saved Civilization . So it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in logic to make the connection. Potatoes saved civilization.
3. Beets are a kick-ass vegetable. A single beet has enough red dye in it — not fake dye, natural beet dye — to paint a large house. People don’t realize this, because there is so little demand for red houses, but it’s true. (Or is not true, but, if you have ever boiled beets, seems true.) And they taste good! People don’t realize that, either, but grab hold of a jar of borscht at your supermarket — the kind “made from real beets, not from concentrate” — and I say, move over Tropicana! Just work up a sweat, grab a bottle of borscht from the fridge, shake it up and swig it down. Forget the sour cream, and certainly forget heating it up, although that can be good too. Just chill, shake, and swig. Shake, rattle, and roll.
Tomorrow: Underappreciated Stocks