Image from here
I was just reading an old canning industry manual for my dissertation research, and came across this sentence amid a list of other agricultural "achievements":
"Canners were among the first to use the strains of beets that are solid red in color all the way through, instead of having alternate bands of red and white"This sentence made me do a little bit of a double take--the canners were proud of this?
I don't know about you, but I remember the first time I cut into a beautiful chioggia beet--the rarer kind with red and white stripes (pictured above)--that I'd gotten from the farmers' market, or in our CSA farmshare box. I was stunned by its beauty. I wanted to capture those stripes and hang them as artwork all over my house, reveling in their messy symmetry and the watercolor effect of the deep reds and pinks and whites.
It felt like a real discovery to find that not all beets were just red throughout. Not that the solid red beet isn't beautiful in its own right, but this striped version won the beauty contest in my opinion, hands down.
So, now to find that the canners worked hard to develop varieties that were more uniform and less beautiful?
It has left me thinking hard about how food aesthetics have changed over time, how uniformity may have been praised in the middle of the century, where heirloom varieties with quirky features are praised today. How consumer preferences shift and morph as the years pass....
But I'm glad that I've still got access to the "alternate bands of red and white" of the chioggia beet.