Keep Knoxville Scruffy: Beet orange salad

In a 1980 Wall Street Journal story titled, “What if you gave a World’s Fair and no one came,” journalist Susan Harrigan criticized the choice of Knoxville, Tennessee as the location for the 1982 World’s Fair, dismissing it as a “scruffy, little city.” Residents refused to retreat with wounded pride and have celebrated the label ever since.

1982 World’s Fair’s Sunsphere


Knoxville sits by the Tennessee River with the Great Smokey Mountains in its backyard. Fifteen years ago when I started visiting Knoxville to see my daughter and her family, the grands were young and we did kid things: feeding the ducks at Fountain City, picking apples at a local orchard, taking autumn drives to Cade’s Cove, and spending time hiking in the beautiful mountains. Now, the Smokies are indeed beautiful, but from a Washingtonian’s point of view, they are more like furry green hills than majestic mountains.

Our family’s “the hills are alive” moment

When they were young

As the kids grew older, we focused on downtown activities: shopping at Mast General, listening to live music at the Blue Plate Special, buying fresh produce from local farmers in Market Square, eating pizza at Tomato Head, drinking coffee at Katie’s Third Creek Coffee, or watching the rock climbers at Lauren’s River Sports.

Sister Antics, Blue Plate Special

Downtown Knoxville, Market Square

Knoxville reminds me of Tacoma: a red-headed stepchild, stuck between two cooler cousins. Tacoma—“Grit City”—forever in the shadow of Seattle to the north and Portland to the south and Knoxville—that “scruffy, little city”—stacked up against Instagramable Ashville to the east and Music City Nashville to the west. Seattle sold its soul years ago to Amazon and Portland is way too self-aware but let’s hope that Knoxville and Tacoma, on the verge of being declared cool, can hold on to their scruff and their grit.


The light posts and parking meters are crocheted on Wall Street in downtown Ashville!

Early Girl Eatery

If only it were a 1962 VW bus

Woolworth Walk art gallery and diner

“Flat Iron,” Reed Todd

Bob found peeled, cooked beets, cryovaced in four packets of 6-8, the other day at Costco for $6. They’re not quite as tasty as the ones you roast, but way more convenient. So far, I’ve made beet soup, a beet lentil salad, beet pasta, beets and greens, beet, feta, and walnut salad, beets and cooked carrots (He also bought 10 pounds of carrots at Costco), and the below beet, orange salad. Can beet crisp be far behind?

 Beet, orange, avocado salad

  • 3-5 small cooked beets, large dice
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 2 navel oranges, supremed (see video below)
  • Halved grapes are good too
  • 1/2 minced shallot or thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 cups spinach or assorted greens, or none!
  • 1 tablespoon toasted salted sunflower seeds or walnuts
  • Slight squirt of agave or honey
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap beets tightly in foil and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Once cool, remove skin and slice. Or buy already cooked at Costco.

Combine salad ingredients, serve with chopped nuts or sunflower seeds, and either attached dressing, Ranch, or dressing of your choice.


  • 1 spoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 spoon minced garlic
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange or lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Crush garlic, mustard, and salt with the back of the spoon.

Add vinegar, orange juice.

Whisk in olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper.

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1 Response to Keep Knoxville Scruffy: Beet orange salad

  1. Ginny says:

    Glad to see Bernie had at least one supporter in North Carolina

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