Iâ€™m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Grinnell, Iowa.
Greetings from Grinnell, Iowa
N 41Â° 43.6672â€™ W 092Â° 43.6374 Elev. 1007 ft.
Nothing beats a beet, especially if itâ€™s pickled … with some white onion.
I was in the Hy-Vee in Grinnell, Iowa recently to get one of those unbeatable Hy-Vee deli meal deals. I remember it like it was yesterday … I got really awesome white beans with big chunks of ham, a â€œspring saladâ€ (pasta shells, with carrots and celery, in a sweet dressing), and … BEETS! ($5.99)
It was in the Grinnell store awhile back when I first noticed they had pickled beets in the deli case for $3.99/lbs. I asked the guy behind the counter, Ron, how they were. â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he said, â€œI donâ€™t eat beets.â€ Bummer for him, I thought.
I asked to taste them and they were the absolutely awesome: Sweet and sour, tangy, well-spiced, with that earthy, musty flavor beets are well known for. Everything a pickled beet should be. And with a generous amount of white onion mixed in to boot.
I told Ron how great they were and offered him a half-slice of beet on my fork. Evidently Ron has a deep-seated aversion to beets. He backed away, making an â€œEwwwwâ€ face of disgust so contorted youâ€™d think Iâ€™d just offered him a heaping helping of steaming dog turd-on-a-stick. Poor Ron. I bought a pound container of the delicious gems and proceeded to have Fun with Beets.
In fact, I even wrote a Haiku about them:
Beet. Beat. I (heart) Beets.
The root of life needs pickling.
But Ron says, â€œNo thanks.â€
I like to use pickled beets the same way smart people use leftover cranberry sauce/relish from Thanksgiving, by putting it on sandwiches. Theyâ€™re great on turkey, chicken and tuna sandwiches.
Lately Iâ€™d been putting them on Arbyâ€™s Junior Chicken Sandwiches (99Â¢-$1.29, depending on location). The sandwich consists of a deep-fried chicken patty and a bit of lettuce, and comes dressed with a little mayonnaise. I get an extra package of Mayo from the Arby-ettes to ensure Iâ€™m â€œcookinâ€™ with gas.â€ Mayo and beets are a great combination. The sandwiches are really good, akin to those super-comforting leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, albeit with a decidedly low-budget, industrially processed pullet bent.
I thought I was unique by putting beets on sandwiches. A little research revealed that Australians regularly put them on hamburgers. â€A burgie widâ€™out beet idnâ€™t a burgie, mate.â€
Iâ€™ve always had a feeling beets were inherently healthful. And great googly-moogly! It turns out beets may well be destined to become the next miracle food/cure/fix-all. As beet farmersâ€™ luck would have it, beets:
â€¢ Lower blood pressure;
â€¢ Lower cholesterol;
â€¢ Are high in antioxidants;
â€¢ Prevents some cancers;
â€¢ Treats anemia and fatigue;
â€¢ Helps your mental health (not mine);
â€¢ Supports healthy liver function;
â€¢ Aids tissue growth;
â€¢ Stabilizes blood sugar;
â€¢ Reduces risk of osteoperosis;
â€¢ and Increases sex drive.
They also taste great. And to think the scientific name for this largely ignored yet noble root vegetable is Beta vulgaris. Tainâ€™t nothinâ€™ vulgar â€˜bout â€˜em, I sez.
Iâ€™ve been to a couple of restaurants in Pennsylvania where they serve â€œHarvardâ€ beets. They were pickled beets about the size of ping-pong balls at one place, cubed beets at another. What made them such a treat was that they were not only heavily spiced in a super thick sweet and sour-type sauce, but they were served warm.
Iâ€™ve must have led a very sheltered, deprived and/or depraved life because in all these years â€” 29! â€” Iâ€™d never run across beets served warm. What a treat they are.
Beet greens are also edible, supposedly with a flavor similar to kale. Sadly, Iâ€™ve never had them … yet. But the next time I hit Nona Miaâ€™s Iâ€™m going to take in a bunch of fresh beets, hand them over to Chef/Owner Peter Affatato, and say: â€œSurprise me!â€ I figure itâ€™ll be impossible to go wrong. After all, theyâ€™re beets.
And what other miracles are the humble beet responsible for? Well, first of all, if youâ€™ve ever seen a USDA Inspectorâ€™s stamp on a side of beef, the â€œinkâ€ was beet juice. But hereâ€™s an even better one: the flavorless and largely inedible Sugar beetâ€™s juice is better than salt for melting ice on roadways. Go figure.
Beets can be grown the world over it seems. And they can always be found in the grocery store, either fresh or pickled. I ask you: Could life possibly get any … beet-er?
And so we roll.
Hy-Vee, locations thoughout the upper Midwest
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.