Posted by: Amy | June 3, 2012

Unearthing beets and friends

By special request, I made my Mom’s famous Pink Potato Salad for my sister’s 65th birthday.

The “secret” ingredient is red beets, hence the pink coloring. This time around, I picked up organic veggies at the local farmer’s market. I asked other shoppers what they did with the gigantic beet leaves. One woman said she juices them, another recommended salad.

I didn’t have to put as much sweet relish into the recipe because the beets were oh-so perfect. I got all excited, thinking the leaves will be on the sweet side. I popped a piece of the stem in my mouth and chewed. A salty-celery flavor burst forth.  I tried a piece of the leaf. The texture was on the tough side. But instead of the anticipated sweetness, I was greeted by bitterness. Mom gave it a try, and we looked at each other in amazement.

“You would think it would be sweet,” she said, a bit disappointed. I told her I liked the bitterness of the leaves, but not enough to eat a whole bowl of it. She agreed.

I would not have survived as a gatherer back in prehistoric times.  If I had come across these green leaves and tasted them, I would have kept on moving. Someone else had to dig deeper to find the prized beets.

Some people are like beets. You meet someone, you see the tough exterior and get a taste of salty bitterness. You move on, not wanting to deal with them.

But what if you don’t judge on first impressions? What if you give that first meeting a chance to take root and bloom into a friendship? You may not have to dig too deep to find that person’s sweet side.

I try not to rely solely on first impressions or gut instincts. I hear the warning bells go off, but I try to keep an open but cautious mind. Sometimes those bells are just plain wrong. If I had listened to them all the time, I would have missed out on being friends with some amazing people.

Of course I tread carefully, just in case the gut was correct in the first place. Usually if this is the case, the person’s nature would reveal itself quite quickly. Then I move on.

But luckily, I’ve been able to find sweet, loving people underneath it all. They have made my life … pink.



  1. Up until now, I had never considered how the gatherer’s even discovered the underground goodies for us to eat and enjoy.

    I loved how you related it all to human relations.

    • Thank you, Meena. I don’t know how the gatherers survived, but I’m glad they were able to discover all the goodies for us.
      I don’t know how this piece came together but that’s the magic of writing, right?

  2. Love the beet metaphor. On the literal side, I use beet greens all the time. I treat them like a green. I chop them up in soups mostly. One of my favorite versions is an Asian take with fresh ginger, miso and shoyu. I only eat the baby greens raw in a salad. As the plant ages, it sends all the sweetness underground for reserve energy. Guess the same could be said of some of us older folks.

    • I just didn’t have enough time to experiment this time out, but I do want to give the leaves a second chance. That Asian-style recipe sounds yummy. Thanks, Lara. And I love your last statement. LOL!

  3. Hello Amy –
    So many provocative thoughts in one post!
    First – Would you be willing to share your Pink Potato Salad recipe? It sounds yummy and my parents love PS and beets. This would be a double whammy for them!

    I don’t know if I would be a very good gatherer either. However, my life has taught me that we can get used to much more than we could imagine, especially if our lives and other lives depended on it. We are adaptive creatures by design. You’ve eaten beet leaves, so I think you would do very well! 🙂

    Comparing beet leaves to people?! But you’re right. Sometimes we meet people and we may not seem to click. I like to give a person a couple of chances, because who knows what is going on in their life? Simultaneously, I don’t want to ignore my warning bells. Sometimes they might be wrong. There have been times when my warning bellls were right and I had some bad close calls. As with everything in life, including cooking, balance is key.

    Thanks for such a lovely post!

    • Hi, Monique!
      I don’t have a recipe, per se. It’s that “eyeballing” way of preparing it. But it’s basic potato salad with diced boiled beets mixed in. Give it a try and let me know if you and your parents like it. Some folks find the color off-putting, but then I say: More for me!

      The key is balance, isn’t it? I want to give people the benefit of the doubt even if they come across too aggressive or just weird. But at the same time, if my warning bells are screaming DANGER! then I have to listen and look for the exit.

      Thank you!

  4. Dearest baby sister,

    Your sweet and insightful essay touched me deeply. Thank you for the delicious treat on my birthday. The whole family always enjoys your labor of love. You have perfectly picked up the baton from our mom. I am glad that you [willingly] uphold the family tradition. (I have never attempted to reproduce the recipe, yet it is obviously labor intensive.)

    Your non adventurous (cautious) side reminds me of some random musings I have had. (Who discovered that artichokes are edible or that there is a heart buried underneath the layers of tough leaves and fuzzy part, called the “choke?” Who decided/discovered that raw cashew seeds cease to be nontoxic when tossed into a burning coal pit?) Like you, I would not have survived the “testing and trial periods” either.

    The metaphor that relationships are like beets is perfect. I agree that there is an art to cooking and choosing the perfect ingredients, just as there is an art to picking, gaining and keeping relationships (and letting go). Given your loving nature, I would choose your friendship every time. I value the precious and unique relationship that you and I have with every “beet” of my heart.

    • Thank you, Ate, my “big sister.”
      I don’t mind at all cooking Mom’s recipes for the family. It makes her happy and besides, I’ve I think I’ve inherited her way of showing love by feeding people. My first words must have been “Kain Na!” As far as my “cautious” adventures go, I may try out the orange cauliflower. Maybe the next time you are here?
      And while we are careful to pick perfect ingredients and good friends, we didn’t “choose” each other, did we? I’ll count this as Grace.
      Love you!

  5. Hello Amy!
    I have a surprise for you! Click on over to my blog post and watch for you name – you awesome blogger you!

    Take care!

    • Oh, my!
      Thanks, Monique. I’m speechless.

  6. i love this so much! i am a huge fan of beets and how you compare people to them is wonderful. you are a terrific writer, my friend!
    Karen 🙂

    • Thanks, Karen. I appreciate your comments. I love your blog!

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