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. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs
through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic people get their physical characteristics from potatoes,
their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing
to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip...
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 sails 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 was Rasputin's favorite vegetable. You could see
it in his eyes.
In Europe there is grown widely a large beet they call the mangel-wurzel.
Perhaps it is mangel-wurzel that we see in Rasputin. Certainly
there is mangel-wurzel in the music of Wagner, although it is another
composer whose name begins, B-e-e-t—.
Of course, there are white beets, beets that ooze sugar
water instead of blood, but it is the red beet with which we are concerned;
the variety that blushes and swells like a hemorrhoid, a hemorrhoid for which
there is no cure. (Actually, there is one remedy: commission a potter to
make you a ceramic asshole—and when you aren't sitting on it, you can use
it as a bowl for borscht.)
An old Ukrainian proverb warns, "A tale that begins
with a beet will end with the devil."
That is a risk we have to take.
From the introduction to Jitterbug Perfume by Tom