The Unredeemed Radish

March 27, 2012

Words By Andrea Goto
Photography by Chia Chong
Styled by Libbie Summers

I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like, at least not one I couldn’t make more palatable by bathing in butter, showering in salt or layering in liquid cheese.  That is, until I met the radish.  She came into my life somewhat unexpectedly, showing up in my dinner salad—her dusty, magenta skin and bright white meat a stark contrast to the sickly green manger of iceberg lettuce and sliced celery on which she rested.

Like a little baby apple, I thought to myself.

I’ve been deceived by diminutive vegetables before.  Contrary to popular belief, baby corn is not maize basking in the glory of its youth.  It’s a malformed, fibrous, sad excuse for an American staple.  It’s the runt of the litter.  The underdeveloped part that some fool found use for by stuffing it into an otherwise perfectly good stir-fry, similar to how the cafeteria cooks hid stale chunks of bread in the hot lunch mac ‘n’ cheese to “make it go a little further.”  But with enough Plum Sauce, even the baby corn can tumble down the hatch without too much resistance, as do pithy shoots of steamed bamboo—both of which no one likes but we endure because of the novelty.

The radish, on the other hand, has no such redeeming quality.  The first time I bit into her, she bit back as if trying to defend herself against consumption.  I promptly spit her out, but the pungent, peppery flavor lingered long into the night, like a dinner guest who won’t leave even after you’ve blown out the last scented candle.

Mom put radishes in our salad to “add color.”  This is an annoying habit she acquired while majoring in Home Economics and, consequently, the source of my hatred for paprika, which does not make a deviled egg more tempting, just more embryonic.  For Mom, it was always about the presentation.  I was allowed to flick the little orphans into Dad’s bowl as long as I left the loathsome radishes in my bowl long to get though “grace” and for Mom to appreciate the plating.  It makes no sense why Dad, of all people, likes radishes.  He reels at the sight of a green pepper and hatefully refers to cucumbers as “pukes,” but radishes do not give him pause.  I suppose I respect him all the more because of it—like someone who drinks their coffee black and their bourbon straight.

Perhaps radishes are an acquired taste, but personally, I think they should stop trying to be something that they’re not (i.e. edible).  By all means, buy them, grow them, harvest them—but if you want a radish to live up to her cruciferous potential, don’t underestimate the worth of carving her into a dainty rosette and using her as a retro garnish—you know, “for color.” Because like gold leaf and fondant, it’s sometimes better to look and not taste.

Editor’s note: The palate of Andrea Goto does not reflect those of the rest of the Salted and Styled team, but we still love her.

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