Friday, March 25, 2011

To the Beet of a Different Drummer


I was in elementary school, having to stay at my aunt's house when I had my first and only experience with beets. I went to a year-round school and we had "mini vacations." My parents had to work during this one break and for some reason there was no one to watch me. Except Aunt Lorraine.

Aunt Lorraine was one tough old bird. Even when I was kid she was old. And mean. Married to my Dad's twin brother, Jack, Lorraine never minced words. She wasn't afraid of anyone and I would have put money on her to kick anyone's ass--man or woman.

My mom never forced us kids to eat certain foods. If we decided we didn't want to eat something, we didn't eat it. Mama wouldn't make something else. Either you ate it or you went hungry. My aunt was cut from a different cloth. Whatever she set in front of you, you had to eat. All of it. No arguments.

When she set that dinner plate in front of me and it sported boiled beets that looked like they were cooked in blood, there was no way I was eating it. She told me I had to eat it. I said I didn't want to. In a voice that was made gravely from smoking too many menthol Kools, she stated I had no choice. I'd eat it or stay all night at that dining table.


I sat there for hours crying and refusing to eat them. I ate everything else on my plate, but those beets. I had never been so miserable in my entire life. I wanted to go home. I didn't tell her I hated her. You didn't say that to Aunt Lorraine. Even at that young age, I knew better. But I just couldn't make myself open my mouth and eat those beets.

As time went by, the beets became room temperature and even less appealing. And there I still sat. She wasn't giving in and I wasn't either. I played with the beets, cutting them up to look as if I ate them, but she wasn't fooled. Four hours later she finally let me go to bed. I begged my mom to let me come home the next day.

This episode in my life, which I can close my eyes and still see the way the beets looked on the plate, altered the way I fed my own sons. I never forced them to eat anything. If they said they didn't like something, I might have suggested to try it, but if they said no, I'd let it go.

I refused to do to them what my aunt did to me. You should never force someone to eat something. Yes, you might like it, but what right do you have to make someone else eat it? It's not being a good parent. It's being abusive.

I consider myself pretty adventurous when it comes to food. Heck, I've eaten alligator, shark, frog, tongue, ox tail, buffalo, ostrich, chocolate covered ants and even lamb fries.

But I always have a saying when it comes to trying new food--I don't eat anything still moving and I don't do blood. I know those beets weren't cooked in blood, but that's what it looked like to me.

I bet most people have a food story in their lives where someone tried to get them to eat something they didn't want to--what was it for you?

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