The Canned Food Ina Garten Calls Her Least Favorite Thing In The World

Based on her public persona, it's difficult to imagine Ina Garten saying anything truly negative about, well, anything. The widely acclaimed chef, cookbook author, and TV host is as beloved for the easy-breezy style she brings to cooking and entertaining as she is for presenting it all in a way that's accessible to even the less-than-confident home cooks among us. So it's a bit of a head-turner when Garten declares her absolute dislike for something, especially something food-related. But here's the thing: Ina Garten loathes Harvard beets.

In a wide-ranging 2022 conversation with David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker and host of the publication's podcast, "The New Yorker Radio Hour," Garten revealed her distaste for canned vegetables, particularly Harvard beets. As she recalled during the conversation, her aversion stems from childhood memories of family dinners. Apparently, Garten's mother, who was a dietitian by trade, wasn't the most creative cook.

"Boiled chicken, canned peas," Garten told Remnick as she recalled a typical family dinner menu in her childhood household. "[My mother] 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. I particularly remember Harvard beets, one of my least favorite things in the world."

Some beets are better than others

You may be thinking, "I know what beets are, but what are Harvard beets?" They are basically the same as pickled beets — cubed or diced beets cooked in a solution of sugar, vinegar, and water — but they are served warm instead of chilled, sometimes with a touch of cornstarch to thicken the cooking liquid to the consistency of a sauce. Or, as Ina Garten recalled, they're processed, canned, and loaded onto grocery store shelves to be sold and reheated at home. (An interesting side note: According to Yankee Magazine, there's no clear connection between the name of the dish that became Garten's childhood nemesis and the Ivy League university of the same name.)

In yet another surprise twist, Garten's disdain for canned Harvard beets doesn't encompass all varieties of beets. In fact, the Barefoot Contessa has churned out quite a few winning beet dishes. Her Food Network recipe for roasted beets — cubed beets roasted with olive oil, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper, then tossed with a blend of orange juice and raspberry vinegar — garnered rave reviews. And her recipe for balsamic roasted beet salad (cooked and chilled beets with toasted Marcona almonds and goat cheese served with Dijon vinaigrette dressing) may be enough to tempt even the most adamant anti-beet guest at your table.