The Beet Goes On:
Essays on Friendship and Breaking New Ground

by Susan Troccolo

Five Peppers Publishing, 2015. ISBN 978-0-996-14031-7.
Reviewed by Susan J. Tweit
Posted on 09/22/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Elders

"If we are lucky enough to get old," writes Susan Troccolo in this wise, loving, and funny collection, "this is a good time to give back to the generation of younger people coming up behind us. This is the time to become freer, gentler (and sometimes fiercer), funnier, happier, and deeper as human beings. We can become even more of who we already are."

The Beet Goes On is a slim volume—just 65 pages—in a petite, gift-book size, but the writing is by no means lightweight. Troccolo is funny and also very frank and writes with the kind of wisdom that comes both from experience and from the sort of introspection that is the human mind's version of composting, where the coffee grounds and banana peels of our experiences are transformed into rich and multi-layered stories able to nurture our growth.

The title of the book, which includes a pun ("beet," the vegetable instead of "beat," the rhythm of music and life) is also the title of the first essay, a hilarious and poignant story of Troccolo's not-always-successful gardening efforts:

"I live in Portland, Oregon, where we have water, sun, and a long growing season. In a place this garden-friendly where root vegetables grow thick and plump, you'd think I'd be able to grow beets by the bushel. But no."

Her desire to grow beets is rooted (sorry—I couldn't resist the pun!) in Troccolo's memories of her "Baba," her Ukrainian grandmother, who "was obsessed with health" to the point of serving "plain borscht that had never known the soothing touch of sour cream" and prune juice for dessert.

"Because of Baba, I had to grow beets. Here was a chance to rewrite personal history with my own borscht dotted with plenty of sour cream and chives. I would eat jewel-toned beets with arugula, blue cheese and walnuts. Roasted beets in extra-virgin olive oil with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper. Beets, I knew, were my destiny."

But Troccolo couldn't grow them. In her third year of trying, she finally managed to harvest one single ruby beet which she cooked with great ceremony using the principles of "the harmony of daily living" from a book on the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. What happened to that beet is worth the price of the book all by itself.

The other three essays are equally revealing and fascinating. Although there is humor in each, the subjects are serious: her husband's brain tumor, her own thyroid cancer, and how she found her "no," her protective roar, fending off an attack by two German Shepherd dogs.

The Beet Goes On would make a lovely gift for anyone in need of a dose of humor and life-wisdom.

For those considering self-publishing, this small volume is also worth buying as an example of how to do it well. The essays started out as blog entries, but Troccolo was wise and hired professionals—an editor, a designer, and a book "shepherd"—to help her transform the blog entries into a polished and appealing book.

Her strategy is interesting too. The Beet Goes On serves as an introduction to Troccolo's work. It aims to enlarge the audience for her blog and for a longer volume of essays to come. It's certainly an appealing beginning, regardless of whether or not you like beets...

Read an excerpt from this book.

Susan Troccolo loves telling stories, especially humor and gardening essays for her blog: Life. Change. Compost. She writes for Culinate, Open to Hope, and Lighthearted Travel, and her essays have appeared in Voicecatcher and Northwest Women's Journal. Susan lives with her husband, Patrick, and Fly, a love bully of a Border Collie, in Portland, Oregon. Visit her website.

Check out our interview with the author of The Beet Goes On.

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