Beetroot and Custard

Once there was a young wombat named Benson, who lived in a nice wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Aunt Moss was feeling poorly, so Benson’s mother asked him to help getting lunch ready. They were having beetroot and spinach and corn bread. Benson’s mother had cooked the beetroot in a big pot and she asked Benson to peel them while she made the corn bread.

Peeling beetroot is very messy, Benson found. The water they were cooked in was dark red beetroot coloured, and the beetroot were even darker red, with slippery red skins. Benson tried to fish one out of the pot, and the water made his hands all red.

“Use a fork,” his mother said. Benson got a fork and tried to stab the beetroot in the pot, but they bounced out of the way, and the red water splashed up onto his chest and left red marks.

“Try using the tongs,” Aunt Lillibet said. She was making a big pot of custard at the other end of the stove.

Benson got the tongs, and managed to grab one of the beetroot and get it out of the pot. He started to peel it, and the red juice went all over his hands, making them even redder. He wondered if it would ever wash out or if his hands would be beetroot-red for ever.

Benson’s mother put the cornbread in the oven and went in to see Aunt Moss. When she came out again she was shaking her head. “I’m really worried about Moss,” she said to Aunt Lillibet. “She hasn’t eaten anything much for three days, and she still says she isn’t hungry.”

“Take her in some of this custard,” Lillibet said. “She loves custard.” She poured some into a bowl, and Benson’s mother carried it carefully into Aunt Moss’s room. In a minute she came out again, bringing the bowl of custard.

“She said she isn’t hungry,” Benson’s mother said. “I think I’m going to have to ring the doctor if she doesn’t eat or drink something soon.”

Benson had a kind of an idea. “Let me try,” he said. He carefully lifted up one of the beetroot, and dropped it into the saucepan with the custard in it.

“No!” his mother and Aunt Lillibet said together. They looked into the saucepan.

“You’ve ruined the custard, Benson,” Aunt Lillibet said very crossly. Aunt Lillibet loved custard too.

The beetroot colour had spread into the custard in big red splotches. Benson carefully lifted the beetroot out of the custard. Then he stirred the custard gently. After a minute it was a very pretty pink colour.

He poured some of it into a bowl and took it into Aunt Moss’s room.

“Oh, pink custard, how pretty!” she said. She tried a tiny spoonful of it. “It has a funny taste,” she said. “A bit like… beetroot.” She tried another spoonful. “Mmm, I like it,” she said. And she ate the whole bowl-full.

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