Archive for the ‘beets’ Tag

Yes, You Read it Right   3 comments

Back in the early ’90’s when I was teaching first grade, Fridays were Cooking Day. I had a convection oven in the class room, (don’t  ask  how I got it!) and the class and I would prepare and cook a snack that went along with whatever unit I was teaching. At Halloween time we toasted the pumpkin seeds we’d scraped from our class jack-o-lanterns. When learning fractions we made pizza and sliced it.

When we did a week’s worth of projects centered around the picture book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, we made – what else but cookies.


For frosting, there was vanilla icing and red, blue, and yellow food coloring.  I went around with three bottles of food coloring, one each of red, yellow, and blue. The children were given a choice of one drop from each of any two, which they then mixed into the white icing to come up with either orange, green, or purple icing

I like to believe there are about twenty-five 30-year olds walking around San Jose who never forgot their primary and secondary colors.

Not only were these lessons wonderful for demonstrating that food requires preparation of ingredients but were also great hands-on, non-language-based experiences  for a class made up of children whose parents had emigrated from Vietnam, China, Thailand, India, and the Philippines. I was teaching what was called Structured English to children, most of whom were  born here, but while functional in speaking English, it was not their first language, and who often got by faking that they understood more than they actually did.

For the teacher, it was a well-earned “down day” to end the week.,

I bring this up because lately I’ve been hearing how today’s computer-connected, microwave children are disconnected to food production, and really have no idea where fruits and vegetables were before they were frozen or canned. Several urban schools are conducting pilot programs where the children tend a vegetable patch in a rooftop garden or some reclaimed corner of a concrete playground to gain firsthand knowledge.

I’ve also been seeing proof of this need at the checkout of my local supermarket. I can’t count how many times high school and college-aged clerks, when faced with entering the code of  a bunch of fresh spinach, turn to me blank-faced and  ask  “What is this?”

But yesterday  proof stared me in the face as I entered the store. Right there, just  inside the door, in the section that touts local produce, AND MAINTAINED BY PRODUCE CLERKS, I came across this.



That’s right, in case you couldn’t read the sign, here it is again



OMG, how can you work in produce, and not know the difference between a  radish and a beet!!!!!

I would have laughed if  it weren’t so sad.

Now,  if you’ll excuse me , I have to go and take  an anti-fussiness pill.

Food for Thought   4 comments

I mentioned in the Kool-Aid post that one reason we drank so much Kool-Aid in my family was because we were not a water-drinking family. Well, that sent my mind on a rambling goose chase, and I found myself following a trail. One that led to a couple of strange eating and drinking habits in my family.

As to the no thank you, no water, I can’t swear to it, but I think this sprang from the fact that my father had a thing about water. He said that he “once got sick after drinking water”. I wish I‘d asked more about this experience like “how do you know it was the water?’ Or “what else did you eat or drink that day?”But I was I was very young when I first heard this and whatever Daddy said was taken on faith.

I wasn’t  young in Daddy’s later years when I’d visit him during various stays in hospitals and nurses would ask me why he wouldn’t drink water.


But I’d still say “once he got sick after drinking water.”  After a few days, he’d have them won over, and all the nurses would bring him orange juice when they came around with the medicine cart.

But this isn’t the only drinking problem our family had. There was also Aunt E., one of Daddy’s older sisters. Her problem was milk. She drank it, but only if she couldn’t see it. Brother A and I always liked eating at her house since she poured our milk into coffee cups.

cup It made us feel like grownups drinking coffee.

Recently I was reminiscing with Cousin J, her son, and he pointed out that she always let her ice cream melt to liquid before eating it, and she only ate vanilla ice cream – in a clear, crystal dish.

Melted ice cream, t hat brings it around to yours truly. I’ve never really psycho-analyzed myself but I’m pretty sure ice cream is the reason I don’t like big parties.  During my early years, say three or four, my mother was always taking me to kiddie  birthday parties. The kids weren’t my friends. We did kind of play together in the park but it was our mothers sitting on the benches who were forming the real friendships.

“Don’t be silly,” she’d tell me when I said I didn’t want to go. “Parties are fun.”

Sure parties had their moments.

pin the tail

Pin the Tail on the Donkey was funny,

musical chairs

and Musical Chairs was exciting.

But with the end of each game, dread and loathing inched a little closer. It meant ice cream and cake was just around the corner.

Sure enough, the birthday girl would open her gifts and the next thing I knew I was crammed in with kids I didn’t know, surrounding a table with a big round cake festooned with white icing, and pink or blue or yellow roses. Candles with dancing flames sat on top.

birthday cake


Happy Birthday would be sung. I’d mouth the words because my throat was closing and the tears were forming.

I’d sniffle and gulp as some grownup with a big knife would slice the cake and put it on a balloon decorated plate before handing it to another grown-up who’d use an equally big knife to slice a rectangle of ice cream from the deconstructed carton, and hand it to yet another G.U who’d place the plates on a tray and give them out.

I just knew the ice cream was melting by the second, and I knew, I just knew I’d have to eat it . After all, the other kids were clapping and jumping up and down and devouring theirs on contact. But the more it melted, the soggier the cake got; and the more I tried, the more I cried.

ice cream & cake

That’s when the questions would start.

“What’s the matter?” some little girl would ask.

I’d shrug my shoulders,

“Why are you crying?” a mother would ask.

I’d shake my head.

“What’s wrong with you,” my mother would ask on the way home. “Kids like ice cream and cake.”

Well, this kid didn’t like ice cream-and-cake, not together. The cake wouldn’t have been too bad if the ice cream didn’t go and “soggify it”.

Maybe that’s what led to my beets and macaroni problem.

My mother always seemed to make macaroni and cheese

mac and cheesewhen she cooked beets.


And since those were the days when a good square meal meant a starch, a vegetable, and a meat, no matter how you dished it out, the red of the beet juice was going to run into yellow of the macaroni and cheese. And I just could not eat the macaroni. No way. And so I sat and sat at the table….until I finished it.

The sands of time have had their effect on me,  but two idiosyncrasies (to put it kindly) remain.

Although I accept, and always have a great time, an initial invitation to a party calls for time to settle into the idea.

Oh yes, I always confine runny, juicy foods to their own little bowl, one that kind of look like aunt E’s ice cream dish.

Any formative food stories in your past?