Yes to Life, Yes to Beets

07 . 01 . 11

There is nothing more rewarding than watching the people you love come alive doing the things they’re passionate about in their work and play. Shaun competed in the San Diego International Triathlon last weekend, medaling in his age group with an old-school bike, worn out shoes, and a humble heart. As I clocked his transitions and watched him cross the finish, I was overwhelmed with pride and love for this man, my comrade, my best friend and all of his amazing qualities.

One of the things I love most about Shaun is that he says YES to life. Yes to the challenges, yes to the adventures, yes to the broke months, yes to the rich (er, relatively speaking) months, yes to giving his time, his love, and his energy to others indiscriminately and often. The biggest and most admirable “yes” has been in his commitment to making a career out of his strengths and passions. Many have viewed his path as challenging and unlikely; but his perseverance has ultimately led to success and happiness.

Shaun inspires me every day as living, breathing proof that anyone can thrive when they break with conventional thinking and embrace their dreams (not anyone else’s), even when they seem risky.

I don’t have enough hands to count the number of times I’ve had someone say to me: “Savor every last bit of college before the real world, you’ll never get this back.” These kinds of comments or warnings make me sad because they reflect on the dominant reality that many people are stuck doing things they don’t love, that they have no passion for, and are longing for (the distorted image of) their college experience when life was (seemingly) easy and carefree.

I’m going to say YES to real life. Every phase of it. As I enter my last year in college, I couldn’t be happier to take what these years have taught me and put them to the test. That’s the point, isn’t it? With this attitude, we both can reward each other by coming alive and doing the things we’re passionate about. Thanks for leaving footsteps on the “road less traveled by,” Shaun. I love you to the stars and back.

When it comes to vegetables, I’m really passionate about beets. No, but I’m serious. It’s taken some serious restraint to postpone another beet post on Happyolks. I was inspired by La Domestique’s “Beet Week” to share a recent recipe that is simple, light, and perfectly summer. I might add that this has made the absolute best brown-bag lunch to my internship this week, a tribute of sorts to Big Girls Small Kitchen and their upcoming brown-bag lunch feature. Say yes to the beets, people.

Say yes to the Fennel, Beet, and Peach Salad:

  • 6 golden beets
  • 2 large heads of fennel
  • 2 large peaches or nectarines (yellow or white, your preference)
  • 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3-4 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Salt, plus more to taste
  • Pepper

Peel the beets and chop into fork friendly pieces. Fill a large stockpot with water, bring to a boil. Add the beets, and boil for 10-15 minutes or until tender.

While the beets are softening, remove the large stalks of the fennel and cut into quarters. Remove the tough middle. In a food processor (have you guessed this is my favorite kitchen tool?) with the slicing disc, run the fennel through to thinly slice. Scoop the sliced fennel into a large bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of salt. Let sit for 10 + minutes to soften. Prepare the peaches or nectarines by chopping or slicing them to your liking. My peaches were super soft so I went the “chunk” route.

When the beets are tender, remove from their cooking liquid into a strainer and soak with cold water to stop the cooking process. When cooled and dry, return to the bowl of fennel and squeeze/pour the salty water that has now pooled at the bottom of bowl down the sink. Add the beets, and then the peaches. Stir in olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and a bit of pepper. Cover with tin foil and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Liven up with more salt and pepper if you like, and enjoy. :)

  • Aw! What a sweet and touching post. Thanks for sharing :)

    I love beets, too! I’d love to try this. It’s such an interesting combination. I bet it’s absolutely lovely!

  • This is so inspiring! Shaun sounds like an amazing partner. I love the unlikely combination in the salad, so interesting and fresh, will keep it in mind :)

  • sheila

    what a loving tribute. and how true it is too. Kelsie, I love your blog. Thanks for making it so personal and beautiful.

  • You had me at Beets! But, I love the story too—may we all take a lesson from Shaun.
    I know exactly what you mean about people warning college students to enjoy their time before they get into “the real world.” At least in the past few years, I’ve been rearranging my thoughts (and my life) so that (1) it feels more like a game than a struggle and (2) I can wake up everyday living and working with what I’m passionate about—so it doesn’t drag me down!
    Life may be short…let’s make it blissful…and eat lots of beets :)

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post, and the great recipe idea.

  • love a good fennel salad! Such gorgeous words, and that is certainly the kind of person you want to spend your days with. I always say that to younger people, to cherish their time in college, thanks for the new perspective, I don’t want it to sound like its all down hill from there!! happy weekend.

  • Oooh I’ve never thought of beets + peaches! Great idea! I will turn 29 in just a few days, and it’s just in the past year that I’ve decided to follow my own dreams. I grew up a good girl who did exactly what I thought everyone else wanted of me. I’ve cried a lot of tears as I came to terms with the idea that I don’t have to fit myself in a box. Now I am following my own passions and can’t wait to see where it leads me. : ) So glad we’ve crossed paths, you’re such an uplifting inspiration!

  • What a wonderful post! I love the “yes to life” mantra, and like you, we try to live it as well. I say don’t worry about leaving college… each part of life is a new phase and each one has its own wonderful parts. For me, it all just keeps getting better and better and I have not desire to return to those college days (while I do have wonderful memories, though!).
    I would really ,really like to say yest to beets… but I just haven’t found a recipe that does it for me. This one looks much more appealing than most though, I just may give it a go.
    Congrats to Shaun on the tri! Nicely done!!!

  • This is a beautiful tribute to your best friend. And that’s a lovely salad! The presentation is perfect… I share your love of beets. But I prefer them fresh-pulled from the garden, with just a quick rinse to wash the dirt away. Delicious!

  • Love beets! I prefer red beets over orange, weird. And fennel, love that combo!

    and yes love seeing enjoying life at what they are passionate about, what makes the world go round, right?

  • Oh this looks so good. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • I love this post, everything about it. I love beets, and I love Happyolks! Work is not a job, if you follow your soul you will be authentically happy and successful in your path. This could not come at a more appropriate time, personally speaking. My husband and I just walked away from a third-generation chiropractic office to start our own chiropractic office, following our passions and the path that we know is in our hearts. I could never have put it as eloquently as you have.

  • You are a really fabulous writer. I always enjoy your posts — especially this one. I miss college and have uttered that same phrase many times…not because I don’t like what I do every day, but rather because I miss the free time that I just don’t have anymore. That lifestyle is definitely something you give up after college, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. :)

  • what an amazing combination of flavors! so inspiring… i would say yes to this anyday!

  • You both have such a fabulous outlook on life and it’s refreshing. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Enjoy your last year of college and all the great things in life that will follow. Ironically, college was incredibly challenging for me — exciting, but not packed with anything on a carefree level because I was working and raising two kids. Loved those years and all I learned from them. On the food side of things, I’ve only recently learned to love beets due to a childhood where pickled beets from jars were slapped on salads. I love the ingredients in yours…

  • Oh yes. Yes to passions, yes to this salad.

  • It looks delicious. I never considered pairing beets and peaches. Congrats to Shaun on his victory.

  • Wow, looks like the perfect salad to me. Went to the market place yesterday and got some gorgeous beets too. I think I know what we’ll have for dinner tonight:) Have a happy weekend!

  • I love this post :)

  • Great post, Kelsey! I’m also going into my last year of college and feel touched by your inspiring words. There are so many people who settle for things after graduation that don’t bring them the happiness they had hoped for. You and Shaun are good examples of people who stay true to themselves and creatively find ways to turn their passions into a career. I’m going through the same type of thing right now and couldn’t agree more with everything you wrote about.

    P.S. I’m also on a beet kick lately and am just about to eat a beet and avocado sandwich. Mmm.

  • you are like a magician! i got golden beets and fennel in my farm share this week and was just wondering what to do with them. i love beets, but fennel? meh. the only recipe i’ve ever made and liked with fennel is a food processor tapenade involving fennel / kalamata olives / red onion / red wine vinegar. i’m excited for something new! i’m going to make this over the weekend for a barbeque/outdoor movie night we’re hosting.

    on leaving college: somehow i suspect that things will be different for you than for those of us who long nostalgically for the college days. you are both so much more mature, deliberate, brave, thoughtful, and creative than most anybody i knew at 21. i know you’ll forge a path filled with ambition, beauty, and individuality for yourselves.

    sending much admiration,
    aleksandra (+ stevie wonder + sir chick)

  • Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been thinking about this post ever since you wrote it—oh, almost a month ago. Your sense of hope is infectious, and it’s been inspiring me to move towards work I’m passionate about. So, thanks, you two (as always!).

  • lovely – the sentiment, the photos, the food. You remind me a lot of my daughter (entering her junior year of college). I’ve always told her to go make a life not a living and she is doing it with gusto. I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 38 – every single day is a reason to smile. Sometimes the people I smile at don’t smile back but I’m sure I have them wondering ;-)

    Can’t wait to read more of your writing, cook some of your dishes.

    And I love beets too (and just recently made a twice roasted beets with buttermilk and goat cheese dressing that made us all sigh happily).

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