Every now and then, I find the flavour of a really good beef liver pate is exactly what my soul is craving
Maybe it has something to do with the tremendous amount of iron and trace minerals that come with the liver; nutritionally, beef liver is almost unique among other foods.
In fact, during one bleak period of our Hedemark Family history, money was so tight that my mother Johannah Hedemark decided to prioritize her grocery budget on two items: liver, and beets.
“I’ve researched it. Liver and beets are basically the two most nutritious foods you can purchase for the money; if we have nothing else to eat this winter, we will have liver and beets.”
True to her word, she visited an abattoir in Owen Sound and bought whole frozen beef livers, thinly sliced, for something like 29 cents per pound. She also purchased bushels of beets directly from local farmers. Smaller beets were less expensive than the larger beets, so she got great deals on those.
That winter was, officially at that time, the snowiest winter in Ontario’s history. It snowed EVERY SINGLE DAY for something like four months. School busses were cancelled on a regular basis, and once our electricity went out for four days in a row. I remember mom making “pizza buns” with English muffins over the fireplace in our family room.
“Come and sit with me and let’s make pizzas,” mom invited us cheerily. It was a fun thing. I did not realize it at the time – we had no heat in our house and no other way to cook food. She wanted us to warm by the fire and eat whatever she could manage to cook over the fire; there was nothing else.
It’s hard to find words to describe how, at the end of months of dark days, endless snow, isolation and boredom, I loathed sitting down to a dinner of liver fried in lard and boiled beets. 4 days out of 7? 5 days out of 7? Liver again – beets again? I literally gagged trying to choke down the meat: I hated the flavour, hated the texture, and HATED the fact that it was being forced upon me. I would have rather starved than look at one more piece of liver.
However, the beets-by-the-bushel purchase led to one of our best family stories: occasionally when one of us kids was sent out to the cold room to get a bowl full of beets, a stray beet fell to the floor. Given the plump body of the little beet and its long root “tail,” a wayward beet looked a lot like a mouse laying on the floor. Mom often reminded us not to be sloppy and drop beets.
One day Mom walked into the cold room and saw a beet laying floor, and lost her temper.
“How many times have I asked you NOT TO LEAVE BEETS LAYING AROUND ON THE FLOOR?” she shrieked so loudly that we could hear it 3 rooms away.
Bending over to retrieve the nutritious beet – money being wasted – she was shocked to find out she actually HAD picked a mouse up by the tail, a real furry mouse. She screamed and threw it at the wall, killing it or at least knocking it senseless.
Pete, Paul and I came running to see what all the commotion was about and to rescue Mom from whatever disaster had befallen her. It was confusing to burst into the cold room and see Mom leaning against the wall, laughing so hard she was crying.
“I was yelling at you for disobeying me…and it wasn’t a beet, it was a MOUSE!” she wept, shoulders heaving with laughter. “I was yelling at YOU – and it was ME being wrong! I really have to be more careful about the things I yell at you for.”
Now, I am 53 years old and Mom has been gone for 25 years. When I remember that cold, dark, snowy, poverty-stricken Ontario winter, I focus on only three things.
- Liver and beets are the most nutritious foods you can buy, for the money.
- Be careful about the things you yell at your kids for.
- When you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
This winter, I went on a real tear of making beef liver pate. No sooner was one batch gone, it seemed, than I needed to set about making the next batch, freezing slices for future meals.
One night I got home from work about midnight and although I felt too tired to eat, I knew that if I did not consume something I would wake up around 3am too hungry to sleep. So I put some beef liver pate on a plate with rye crackers, and when I surveyed the jars of pickles in my fridge, I passed over everything to dish up only a few pickled beets.
I sat down with my plate of food; I laughed and then I cried. 40 years later, in my brand new cozy warm house with all the money in the world to buy any kind of food I want – I am still eating liver and beets.
 Dale Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Principle #12