Everyone tells me I am the spitting image of my Grandmother Ellie. I definitely inherited her height, free spirit, mild disdain for the conventional, and a tendency towards the outrageous. Grandma was Auntie Mame, Endora, and Gloria Steinem all rolled into one. I adored no one more.
My cousin Jane, “Big” Grandpa, Grandma Ellie, and cousin Larry
(I’m the one in the middle)
Elegant, 6 feet tall, and usually dressed in couture…My fun-loving grandmother played Mahjong, danced on tabletops, and traveled to every remote corner of the world. Prince would have killed for her purple and paisley condo. She also did Transcendental Meditation, knit bandages for the lepers, got a masters degree in psychology in her 60’s, then fought to free a cousin that had been institutionalized since childhood. She was a true matriarch, radically cool, and the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She even taught us how to die living, rather than live dying when she wrote articles about it for the Des Moines Register and Tribune shortly before her death in 1975.
My Aunt Miriam in Grandma’s arms
Rightly so, my family were concerned when I was in denial over the seriousness of my Crohns disease, and hellbent on traveling to Africa. My aunt gave me my grandmother’s diaries from her own trip to Africa 30 years earlier, in the hopes that it might deter me once I read how treacherous the trip could be. Wrong! The thought of retracing my beloved grandmother’s journey only served to spur me on more.
With Grandma Ellie
It also afforded me the bizarre opportunity to become reacquainted with my grandmother from an adult’s perspective. It was as if I was in her head hearing her thoughts. Not carefully chosen words for others to hear, but rather her most private inner thoughts about each day’s experiences, hopes, and desires. Her unyielding curiosity about the world, wanting to experience every ounce of life she could, open mindedly trying to see it through others’ points of view. The diary also revealed a flawed, more human side to her nature that made me love her all the more.
With my other favorite person in Dubrovnik, July 2009
Ellie was liberal to put it mildly, but never lenient. Every time I have a client that allows their children to dictate the family diet I think back to the only time I remember locking horns with my grandmother. I was spending a weekend at her house when I was 6. She asked me what vegetable I would like to have for dinner. I wanted beets. She bought pickled beets. I hate pickled beets, and refused to eat them. Those damn pickled beets were served again for breakfast, then lunch, and then the following dinner before I finally caved on the verge of starvation and gagged them down. I learned to eat what was put in front of me.
I still don’t fancy pickled beets much, but I do love this beet root salad recipe. It makes the perfect “ladies that lunch” menu item. Pretty, healthy, and filling. The sweetness of the caramelized beets blends well with the freshness of the celeriac.
Roasted Beet & Celeriac Salad
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or agave
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons + 1/4 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 large celeriac, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch dice
4 medium beets (1 bunch), peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch dice
4 ounces Chevre, at room temperature
1). Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl toss the chopped celeriac in 1 tablespoon of oil and spread in an even layer on one side of a sheet pan. Now toss the beet in another tablespoon of oil and spread evenly on the other side of the sheet pan. Season with Kosher salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until just tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
2). In another large bowl mix white wine vinegar, mustard, honey, and garlic together with a whisk. Season to taste, then slowly add 1/4 cup canola oil in a steady stream, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Add the Chevre to the bowl, then the warm roasted vegetables. Stir well, and chill in refrigerator 15 minutes.
3). Gently press spoonfuls of the salad into a 3 inch mold on each plate (about 2 inches high), and carefully remove the mold.
Serve with spinach salad or any greens of your choice.