My Week 48: Deathly Beets and Weird Road Signs

Wednesday: I do a lot of cooking

You might remember that last week I talked about a crazy dream I had where I started doing math and ended up cooking Cornish hens in red wine sauce. It was bizarre, but it reinforced one important thing–I love cooking. Some people don’t get this, mostly the people who don’t love cooking, but to me, there’s nothing more relaxing than picking out a recipe, getting the ingredients, and spending a couple of hours making something delicious. When Ken and I were first married, my culinary range consisted of Pillsbury frozen mini-pizzas, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and ground beef with prepackaged noodles and sauce. Since then, I’ve had many adventures and misadventures (baking SODA rather than baking powder in the raspberry pie I made for the first time I hosted a family Thanksgiving is the most memorable, and probably the most disgusting), but I’ve steadily improved my abilities over the last 25 years. Although Ken and I have different tastes (and taste buds, apparently), he loves food and he’s usually pretty good about eating whatever I make—mostly because if he complains, he knows the response will be “Fine. Make your own damn dinner then.” And Ken is one of those people who DOESN’T like cooking, so even though he’s really super-picky, he will tolerate whatever is on his plate and just eat around the stuff he doesn’t like, kind of like a toddler. Or, like a toddler, he gets a little whiny. Case in point—earlier in the week, I was doing home-made corn tortilla fajitas with the awesome tortilla press that I bought online. But Ken was all like, “I don’t want corn tortillas! I want regular wheat tortillas! Wah wah!” and he was adamant enough that he actually went out and bought some wheat tortilla shells right before dinner so he could have things his own way. I mocked him a little, of course, but then later I felt bad about it, because if he wants gluey, ‘stick to your intestines’ wheatiness, then who am I to judge? So the next night, I promised him I would cook him beets. While this may not sound like a big deal, the thing you need to know is that Ken LOVES beets. He’s always mooning about how amazing beets are, and threatening to buy some so he can “boil them, slice them, and eat them with salt and butter.” Even saying it makes me feel slightly nauseated. But I had found a recipe for “roasted root vegetables” and figured that if I put the beets in with enough carrots and potatoes, it just might be edible. (Ken planted beets in our vegetable garden this year, but they still haven’t reached the point where they can be eaten, having been overshadowed by the insane cherry tomato plant next to them, which started out very small and is now approximately half an acre wide, much to the delight of Titus, who has discovered that tomatoes are yet another thing he can eat that he shouldn’t).

So on the way home from the cottage, we stopped at a Mennonite fruit and vegetable stand. There was no one around for a couple of minutes and we were just about to give up, when a little girl about six years old flew out of the farmhouse about 300 feet away and came running down the lane in her bare feet. We told her what we wanted to buy—3 cobs of corn, a pint of raspberries and a bunch of beets—and asked how much we owed her. She just stared at us with big eyes. She was adorable but apparently, she didn’t speak English, and couldn’t do math, which made her the perfect salesperson for a small business in Mennonite World. But I shouldn’t be critical. I was as flummoxed by the math as she was, having bought 3 cobs of corn at the price of $4 for a dozen. Luckily, Ken is a whiz at math, and he figured out the total cost with some complex algorithm involving fractions and long division and we were on our way. But I was concerned about the whole strange situation:

Me: What was she, like 6? Is that even safe?
Ken: What do you mean? God, these raspberries are amazing. Can you make cheesecake for dessert?
Me: Well, what if we were in a van? Would they have still sent her out? We could have been kidnappers.
Ken: I’m sure someone was watching from the window. Oh my god, these raspberries! Do you have the stuff you need to make cheesecake?
Me: How could they see from over 300 feet away? By the time someone noticed that she was being snatched, they would be gone! Maybe they have different aged children they send out depending on the vehicle. If it’s a single guy in a van, they send out the 15 year-old with the huge muscles from working in the fields. We’re a couple in a small car, so we get the adorable 6 year old?
Ken: These raspberries will be awesome on cheesecake! I can’t wait!
Me: Sigh. If you keep eating them, there won’t be any LEFT for cheesecake. That’s it. Two more raspberries then the bag goes away. I mean it.
Ken: Aw….

That afternoon, I started getting everything ready—husking the corn, making the cheesecake, marinating the steak—until finally, it was time to tackle the beets. I peeled and chopped the potatoes and carrots first, avoiding the inevitable. Then I pulled the beets out of the bag. They smelled disgusting, like an open grave. I washed and peeled them, and it didn’t help. K was sitting at the counter, and I said, “God, these things smell and taste like dirt!” She said that was because they came from the ground. I reminded her that the same was true of carrots and potatoes but they smelled like they were meant to be eaten, not buried in a tomb. Then I held a peeled beet up to her nose, and she was like “God, they DO smell like dirt! I’m not eating any of that!” At this point, I realized that my hands were now dyed an alarming shade of pink, as was my cutting board, and as I mixed the chopped beets into the roasting pan, the carrots and potatoes started to turn pink as well. “Holy sh*t, the beets are spreading their poison to the rest of the food!” I exclaimed. “What if this is how the zombie apocalypse starts?!”

While dinner was cooking, Ken came down and was using my laptop to research more beet recipes.

Ken: Hey, check this out. This website says that people “are very passionate about beets. They either love them or hate them”…
Me: Accurate assessment.
Ken: “A lot of people think they taste like dirt”!
Me: That’s because they do. I told you that about half an hour ago.
Ken: You already read this website! You’re plagiarizing Martha Stewart!
Me: Bullsh*t I’m plagiarizing Martha Stewart. Do you think she’s the only one who knows that beets taste like death? EVERYONE knows it. Martha Stewart is plagiarizing ME.

Then I served dinner, making sure that Ken got pretty well ALL of the beets. I had about three chunks, which only served to confirm that I am definitely one of the people who hates beets. But Ken was beside himself with joy, and I felt like I had made up a little for mocking him about the tortillas, especially because the cheesecake and fresh raspberries (what was left of them) were pretty amazing. Then the next day, I was in the bathroom, and I came out and said to Ken, “I think I need to call the doctor. The water in the toilet—“ “That’s just the beets,” he laughed. “Nothing to worry about.” And I’m not worried about it, because I’m never touching one of those zombie death-bombs ever again.

Friday: I’m curious about the Deaf Person Area

On Friday afternoon, I was coming back from our cottage, where I had been trying to weed the garden. But my stamina is not what it used to be, and after 45 minutes, I called Ken and said, “Screw this. It’s too hot and there’s a creepy squirrel hanging around here that keeps staring at me. We need to just get the lawnmower out and cut everything down. I’m coming home.” There are several ways to come home from our cottage, as we discovered through trial and error (which means via Ken’s “shortcuts”), and the most interesting and thought-provoking way is through a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere, remarkable only because of the official road signs as you’re entering from either side that reads “Deaf Person Area”. This has been the topic of a lot of interesting conversations between Ken and me over the years. The first time I saw the sign, I was intrigued. Were we going to see a lot of deaf people milling around, speaking sign language to each other, oblivious to the sound of traffic, like a bizarre tourist site? (Come see The Deaf in their natural habitat! See them doing regular people things like mowing their lawns and drinking tequila on their porches!) But no—every time we’ve been through, the place has been deserted. I’ve looked carefully at all the houses, and there has never been any indication that deaf people live in them, although I don’t know how you could tell that anyway—extra big doorbells? But it begs a few questions. First, how many deaf people have to live in one place before it qualifies as a Deaf Person Area? Is there a certain quota, like “more than two”? And what if you get a sign, then the deaf people move away? Do you get to keep the sign, just so you can mess with the people driving through? Because when you see the sign, you have no idea what to do next. It doesn’t say “Drive slowly” or “Drive carefully” or anything—it just seems to be an awareness campaign. Or a WARNING. Maybe THESE deaf people are dangerous and will throw rocks at your car if you’re speeding. Which leads me to the next question: Isn’t it politically incorrect to refer to people as “deaf” these days? Shouldn’t the sign say “Hearing-Impaired Zone” or “Non-Aural Neighbourhood”? And isn’t it a little insulting to the hearing impaired to have signs telling people about their disability? I don’t know—one of my colleagues is hearing-impaired and I’m sure he would LOVE it if there was a sign on his cubicle that said “Deaf Guy Works Here”. And my final question: Why is the sign even necessary? Even if the people in the “zone” can’t HEAR the cars, they can see them coming. It’s a flat road, and if you want to cross it, you can tell if a car’s approaching from about two miles away. I could understand if it was a “Visually-Impaired Area”, or as the government would say, “Blind Dude Place”, and people couldn’t SEE the cars coming—then a warning would certainly be warranted. I guess I could see the sense in it if the sign said “Hearing-Impaired Child Area”, just so drivers would be extra cautious, but frankly, if my child was hearing-impaired, I sure as hell wouldn’t be letting him play close to a road without supervision. Actually, I wouldn’t let him play close to a road in the first place, hearing-impaired or not. But that’s just me. The other day, Ken and I were driving through Norfolk County and we saw a little boy about 5 years old mowing the front lawn of a house on a big-ass riding lawnmower. He was so small that his feet were dangling in the air, and he looked like he was strapped into the seat with some kind of harness. There was no one else in sight. Maybe they were watching from the window, but all I know is that there should be a sign for that: Stupid Parent Area. Now that makes sense.

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