When I discovered beets in my CSA basket this week I figured I had two choices: toss them directly onto the compost heap or bake them into a cake.
I don’t like cake and I don’t like beets, so I’m not sure what made me think I would like a cake made out of beets. Possibly it was the assurance that “even confirmed beet-bashers will love this cake” in the introduction to the recipe or the fact that my foodie friend Katie mentioned that she’d tried it and liked it, but I suspect it was the chocolate. Of all the ingredients on this earth, chocolate seems the most likely candidate for transforming beets from a mouthful of musty dirt into something that people might actually want to eat.
On an unusually warm afternoon in the summer of 1980, my sister and I wandered into a little thicket of shade created by enormous ruffly leaves curving out from bright red stalks just tall enough for little girls to play beneath. Elated at such a discovery, we raced home to collect our buckets and shovels and then, for reasons intelligible only to little girls, spent the rest of the afternoon happily digging in the cool dirt amid those leafy stalks. I’m not sure if this memory has stuck with me for nearly thirty years because that patch of shade was such a lovely place in which to play or because of the boatload of trouble we got into when our favorite digging spot turned out to be the rhubarb patch of a neighbor lady whose Navy husband significantly outranked our father.
Although there are still a few days left before the Autumnal Equinox officially ushers in fall — with its crisp days and crunchy leaves, summer has been quietly fading for weeks now. The days have grown increasingly shorter, the sunlight itself seems softer, and the smell of wood smoke from neighbors’ fireplaces has replaced the quintessentially summertime scent of sunscreen. All of which leaves me feeling restless and wistful.
I begin to realize that afternoons squandered in tidying up the house or running errands might have been better spent lounging on the beach, and to regret those nights I succumbed to the siren song of takeout pizza rather than avail myself of summer’s abundant and delicious fresh produce. I’m disappointed to discover that I did not pack enough summer into my summer.
So when my favorite corn farmer warned me last weekend that we could expect only three more weeks of corn, I might have been just a teensy bit overzealous in my purchasing. (sensing a theme here?) Not to worry. Corn freezes beautifully and easily, plus I’d recently run across a piece by a corn-obsessed columnist in The New York Times and was itching to try her cornbread.