I work part time in an organic vegetable shop, which is run as a sort of community enterprise to ensure the availabliity of organics locally, and to be an outlet for the produce of local growers. Last week another clerk really made me laugh, labelling truly delicious satsuma with mottled, darkened rind: “Beauty is only skin-deep.” They were the sweetest I’d ever tasted.
Yesterday, a customer came in. Standing over a box of beetroot, he chatted about his mother, an old-timey East End of London Jewish lady, and how she made her borscht simply with boiled beetroot and citric acid, then beat in a raw egg and maybe some sour cream to make it pink.
A few months ago I did some experiments fermenting beetroot with carrots and garlic and a hunk of sourdough bread. An incredible tart sweet flavour and a kind of viscous texture for a cold soup. Heated would be lovely, thinned or with beef stock might have been traditional. I can’t imagine many people eat this way anymore.
Peter told me another incredible story. His grandmother would always ask the butcher for the head of the chicken. (Everyone it seems was happy for the feet, to scrape them down and use in stock, along with various of the gizzard bits.) But the head was useful for the neck, which would be stuffed with a mixture of flour and chicken fat, melded together with fingers like pastry dough. Then it would be cooked, in broth, and become like a sausage, an incredible delicious savory confection. Something from nothing, Peter said. All that love, preparing something for your family.