Monday, October 25, 2010

If Life Gives You Beets...

Ah, fall. When a young girl's (mine, anyways) thoughts turn to cooking cozy stews and pot roasts; when the weather turns crisp and frosty; when the pee turns to purple.

From the beets, you know? I love beets. The only trouble with beets is that all beet recipes on earth seem to begin with the instructions to cook the beets until tender, then slip off their skins. It occurs to me that the latter is likely a step that was originally designed to make one or two lesser cooks feel inferior for being unable to reproduce the feat, that somehow permeated the minds of all recipe mongers thereafter with the ridiculous notion that it is possible to "slip" a beet from its skin, as one might "slip" out of a silk dressing gown or "slip" a litre of Bailey's into their weekend coffee intake. "Slip" in my mind implies a certain amount of ease in doing something - I have hacked, sliced, scalped, dismembered and dismboweled many a beet in my day, but I have never in my life met a beet that willingly gave up its skin.

Slipping beets from their skins is probably one of those things that happens naturally for people for whom everything already happens naturally. Like Heidi Klum. (Heidi Klum is another thing designed specifically to make people feel worse about themselves than they already do.) I'll bet Heidi Klum simply flutters her eyelashes and beets everywhere positively leap out of their skins and slice themselves into perfect rings and never, ever dare turn Heidi Klum's pee purple.

More things designed to make people feel worse about life:

- the person at work who uses precisely three sugar grains in their morning coffee
- BMI charts
- chin hairs
- infant/toddler mittens with thumbs
- Martha Stewart (for reasons very different than Heidi Klum)
- that home gym-slash-clothes hanging equipment in the basement
- Ultimate
- age group check boxes
- passport photos
- dust bunnies
- the line on your income tax return that reminds you that you have contributed only a tiny fraction of a percent of the RRSP amounts that you will soon require to have tucked away in order to avoid dining on Fancy Feast and saltines in your old age, because aren't you 30-34 already? Although you look far older in your passprt photo. And was that a dust bunny that I just saw cavorting under your couch?

It stands to reason that the fact that so many things on earth make people feel worse about themselves is the entire impetus for the reality television industry. If your BMI has got you down, you can watch shows about positively gargantuan humans who haven't moved from their beds in decades and feel better by comparison; if your RRSP balance is pathetic, you can watch shows about people spending themselves into unfathomable credit card debts and feel better by comparison. If you have the IQ of an umbrella stand, you can watch... actually, there are a surprising number of options to help you out with this one.

But if your beets won't slip out of their skins, well, I'm flummoxed. Be grateful the little buggers are only in season for a short while every year, and enjoy the purple pee while it lasts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Soup Gene and the Humble Pie

My esteemed brother once told me I 'must have inherited the soup gene from Dad'. In retrospect, this could have been a polite way of letting me know I had broth in my moustache, but I prefer to think of it as a regular old compliment: Dad makes good soup and, via the glory that is genetic inheritance, I also make good soup.

I'm a big proponent of soup. One of the benefits of soup (aside from its being cheap, nutritious, and delicious) is that it is an excellent way to use up extra vegetables. Today, for instance, I noticed I had some lovely fall veg languishing in the fridge - sweet potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, onions and garlic. Add those to our lovely homemade soup stock, et voila! Soup. M'mm, better still, add a hint of curry flavour and puree the lot for a spicy, fragrant, thick soup that would go just great with some tender, flaky biscuits. Soup gene indeed! Biscuit gene, too! Ol' Dad would surely be proud.

So maybe I've gotten a bit cocky with soup. Really, who needs a recipe when you've got a Soup Gene? Sometimes nature just dominates the hell out of nurture.

I pictured in my mind's eye a soup with a rich, orange hue, subtly hinting at its high nutritional value while simultaneously appealing to children, who, on seeing the soup, would think of friendly things like tabby cats and jack-o-lanterns, and not at all of unfriendly things like fibre (eww!) or antioxidants (ewww!). Such are the pleasures of a well-crafted soup.

After about an hour of chopping, simmering, stirring, and yelling at the kids to play nicely and quit screaming and if you slam the door one more time I'm going to lose my mind! the soup was finally done. (And so was I.) Unfortunately, somehow my carrot-sweet potato-cauliflower-curry blend didn't turn out the anticipated warm orange hue. It turned out... sortof green. And not the sort of green that makes one think of friendly things like gummy bears and leprechauns, or even relatively unfriendly things like green beans or broccoli. Instead, it turned the sort of green that gave me the disturbing sensation I was stirring a giant cauldron of fresh baby crap.

(Bottle, not breast.)

Small Fry took one look at his soup and said, "No way, lady, do I look like I was born yesterday? Get me some pizza."

Medium Fry took one look at her soup and, having been on the earth for 7 1/2 years longer than her little brother and therefore possessing a somewhat greater awareness of the tipping point at which her mother might actually lose her mind, said half-heartedly, "M'mm, this sure looks like good soup, num-num-nums! Eat your soup!"

Honestly, it tasted delicious - spicy and delectable, just like I thought it would. But it looked like such complete swill that even I couldn't stomach it.

We snacked on jam and biscuits until the pizza arrived.