The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sail of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth, now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The onion has as many pages as ‘War and Peace’, every one of which is poignant enough to make a strong man weep, but the various ivory parchments of the onion and the stinging green bookmark of the onion are quickly charred by belly juices and bowel bacteria. Only the beet departs the body the same color is it went in.
Beet consumed at dinner will, come morning, stock a toilet bowl with crimson fish, their hue attesting to the beet’s chromatic immunity to the powerful digestive acids and thoroughgoing microbes that can turn the reddest pimento, the orangest carrot, the yellowest squash into a single disgusting shade of brown.
At birth we are red-faced, round, intense, pure. The crimson fire of universal consciousness burns in us. Gradually, however, we are devoured by parents, gulped by schools, chewed up by peers, swallowed by social institutions, wolfed by bad habits, and gnawed by age; and by the time we have been digested, cow style, in those six stomachs, we emerge a single disgusting shade of brown.
The lesson of the beet, then, is this: Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown. Once you’re brown, you’ll find that you’re blue. As blue as indigo. And you know what that means: