Hallow Beets + Recipe for Roasted Beets & Garlic

In the blackened windows of the night kitchen – Augustus strained his eyes past the shadows of the moonlight, to see if it was the skunks in his garden or just the neighborhood kids playing tricks on him again. Whether it was doorbell ditch or swiping his newspaper that gang was always up to something. And since tonight was Halloween, Augustus was expecting them. Every year they throw burnt out jack-o’-lanterns on his yard even though they’d been told by their parents to leave the old man alone. Their mischief hadn’t bothered him too much. Boys will be boys and Augustus remembered being one, a long time ago. In the morning he’ll pick up whatever broken pumpkins are out there and put them in his compost where they’ll grow back, strong and resilient. 

His dinner – beets from the garden – were steaming in a pan on the counter. He’d roasted them with a head of garlic in a bit of water. His house smelled like sugar and dirt. The cooking liquid had evaporated – leaving the Pyrex dish glazed like stained glass and the garlic saturated a deep pink. When he sliced the top off one of the roots and peeled away the rest of the skin, it bled into him in a warm and satisfying way. 

The doorbell rang before he could rinse off – the first trick-or-treaters were always the little ones who came early. They seemed genuinely excited about dressing up and at least tried to be polite about the candy. It occurred to Augustus as he handed the princess on his front-step an apple and a piece of licorice – that as the night wore on — the children would gradually start looking more and more misshapen, like poorly disguised, greedy adults. 

The girl ran away, waving her wand and shouted ‘thank you’ only after she reached the safety of the sidewalk and her father. It was then that Augustus noticed how bloody his hands looked and that his fingernails were dyed deep purple like a plague of bruises. 

He went back to the kitchen, turned on the television to the evening news, muted it and played music instead like he always does. He chose Mahler’s 2nd Symphony – the Resurrection. In a sad way it reminded him of a better time and place and of JFK because it was performed for the president’s funeral in 1963. 

As the cellos and basses grew in strength during the first movement – Augustus picked up the largest beet and bit into it like an apple. Juice dripped down his chin. He didn’t wipe it off. Instead he rubbed the beet all over his mouth. Then he ran his fingers through the sticky magenta coating that was drying on the bottom of the Pyrex and drew a thick line under each of his baggy eyes and across his forehead. He took out a paring knife and slowly started carving the beet, shaping it into what he thought a heart would look like. When the doorbell rang again he didn’t get up. Not yet. It was still too early and the little kids don’t like his apples and licorice anyway. The older trick-or-treaters would be by soon enough. 

 

Roasted Beets & Garlic

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut stems one inch above the top of the beet. Don’t break the root tail off. Wash and scrub without damaging the skin.

Take apart a whole head of garlic. Don’t peel the cloves – just discard most of the papery coating.

Put the beets in a large, non-reactive roasting pan with about 1/2 cup of water. Scatter the gloves about.

Cover the whole thing tightly with aluminum foil.

Put the pan into the hot oven for about one hour. The time will vary according to the size of the beets. When they’re done they should be tender to a knife blade.

When cool enough to handle, peel the beets. The roasted garlic can be squeezed out for use in salad dressing or on top of bread. Both the beets and garlic will keep in the refrigerator of a couple of days.

RecipeAli Berlow