Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

Beetroot is the Devil’s food! It should be cast out! Cast out, I say!

I've written a blog about UKIP in the last couple of days.

It has attracted an awful lot of attention.  I've been astounded and humbled at the response.

I've also been surprised at the vehement and deeply divided response to one aspect of the main post. 

Yes.  People are really exercised.  Really divided. About my confessed hatred for beetroot.

 

So, I thought I should explain a little more about my beetroot-phobia. 

Family folk-lore has it that one of my mother's cravings, while pregnant with me was pickled beetroot.  Apparently she would eat it directly from the bottle.  

Mum however always told the story that her main craving was cooked, peeled tomatoes, which again she ate in enormous amounts direct from the can. Cold. Yuk!

In any event, I hate both tinned tomatoes and pickled beetroot.

 

The true root of my beetroot hatred lies in a far more quintessentially British location.

Throughout my childhood my father played bowls.  Lawn bowls.  Actually, he was quite good at it.  Playing at County level for both Hertfordshire and Devon in his time.

So our Summer Sunday afternoons were spent in the peaceful, hushed surroundings of the town's bowling club.  Surrounded by woodland and the gardens of neighbouring large houses, the club consisted of a wooden club house, fronted by a large covered veranda and a pristinely kept grass square.

If you've never watched lawn bowls it's a game that encapsulates so much of the English middle class.  The green itself.  Vibrant. Manicured.  Holding out the tantalising prospect of the pristine front lawn coveted by so many of those who played upon it.

The club house was entirely constructed of wood.  Like a large garden shed, with windows facing over the green.  A large veranda a the front providing a covered viewing area of the assembled spectators.  A small kitchen to the side allowing the production of innumerable pots of tea.

Just thinking about it now provides evocative memories of the strong, musty smell always found in the musty interior.  Swirls of dust highlighted by the afternoon sun as it shone through the windows overlooking the bowling green.

 

Sadly, the small kitchen was too small to provide for the production of both food and beverages.  It was therefore the duty of the bowlers' wives (this was the early 1970s remember) to bring along plates of cakes and sandwiches, providing food to accompany the tea provided from the lean-to kitchen.

Coated in cling film, plates in a myriad of styles and designs would be placed on long trestle  tables placed along the back wall of the club house.  The tables leaving just enough room for those ladies serving to stand behind when the time for tea came.

That break in the games always came at 4pm.  On the dot.  

The bowlers crowding into the club house stacking assorted sandwiches, scones and cakes onto their plates before leaving to eat on the veranda or at tables arranged around the green in the sunshine.

 

One of the ladies bringing plates of food was called Nora.  'Aunite' Nora's contribution was a always exquisitely prepared.  The bread thinly sliced, the crusts cut off, the triangular sandwiches exactly proportionate to one another.

The interior filled with sliced, pickled beetroot.  

Pristine when delivered to the table at lunchtime, by 4pm the pink juice had leeched into the bread.  Turning it pink.  Making it soggy.  The vinegary beetroot smell lingering before it. 

It's hardly surprising that they remained largely untouched as the other tea time treats were snapped up.

And this is where I come in.  Politeness being my mother's middle name, I was forced to stand back, letting the bowlers choose first.  Allowed to the table when the best pickings had been taken.  Forced to take one of Auntie Nora's beetroot sandwiches in a show of kindness.  

My stomach turns just thinking about it now.

 

My father's best friend was also my godfather.  His daughter, slightly my senior, baby-sat me often on those afternoons, as our parents played bowls together.

We remain in touch often.  Over dinner a few years ago J mentioned my beetroot-phobia and how he found it incomprehensible.  

Looking up my godfather's daughter and I said, in unison, without prompting: "Auntie Nora's beetroot sandwiches." Collapsing into giggles at the shared memory as our partners looked on bemused.