The Canned Beets Ina Garten Hates With A Passion

It's not often that you see chefs using canned goods and jarred pasta sauces in their recipes, but, then again, Ina Garten doesn't consider herself a chef in the classical sense. Lacking any culinary school experience and having actually been discouraged from cooking by her mother as a child, Garten learned her way around the kitchen by making her way through both volumes of Julia Child's "The Art of French Cooking." Furthermore, before leaving her White House job in the 1970s to run a specialty food store in the Hamptons, the Food Network star admitted during an interview with PBS that she had never even worked in a restaurant or store.

Clearly, her somewhat unconventional method of learning was a success, and now, Garten is a household name. Her recipes are simple, yet elevated, and fairly easy for the average home cook to re-create, especially since the cookbook author often encourages fans to use store-bought ingredients if they need to.

Garten's personal list of holy grail products includes Rao's pasta sauce, Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin, and San Marzano tomatoes. However, despite being partial to so many pantry staples, there is one particular canned item that you'll never see Garten use: Harvard beets, which she told The New Yorker's David Remnick was "one of [her] least favorite things in the world."

Ina Garten's hatred of Harvard beets started as a child

Though somewhat sophisticated-sounding in name, Harvard beets are actually a fairly uncomplicated dish consisting of beets cooked in sugar, butter, and vinegar. The Salty Pot describes them as having a "sweet and tangy flavor that makes them a pure delight to eat, especially for kids" –- though Ina Garten very much disagrees. "No child likes Harvard beets," she declared during the 2022 interview with The New Yorker. "You might develop a taste for it afterward, but not when you're 10."

Her distaste for the earthy veggie stems from the lackluster dinners her mother made her as a child, which she described as having "no joy" in them. "She was a dietician by training and didn't believe in carbohydrates. We never had bread or potatoes or polenta or anything absolutely delicious. We didn't even have frozen vegetables. We had canned vegetables," Garten explained. Lunch wasn't much better, as the television personality told The New York Times' Julia Moskin that she often went to school with a sardine sandwich.

Despite not having many fond memories of dinnertime in her youth, Garten still found some inspiration in her mother's cooking. In her 12th cookbook, "Modern Comfort Food," she has a recipe for Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa, which she said was inspired by the canned pea soup her mother used to serve with pieces of hot dog in it.