Rhubarb

Learning to like new foodwhole pie

When I was 8 or 9 years old my family moved to a “new” house.  It was actually older than the “old” house, but it was a new place to live.  I’m sure you all get my meaning.  At the back of our lot there was a rhubarb plant.  Bush?  Whatever you call it, it was big.  No one in our family liked rhubarb, so my mom spent about a decade trying to kill it off and finally she was successful.  I don’t know if I’d even tried it back then.  But apparently my parents didn’t like it, and especially my mom, since I don’t think she would have worked so hard at killing it if she’d liked it.  I did have a small bit of strawberry-rhubarb jam once as an adult and I wasn’t impressed.  Too tart for me.  So, for that reason, I’ve never bothered to plant it.

Fifteen years ago I had my fourth child.  Our third son, Noah.  Noah has turned out to be a very unique member of our family when it comes to food.  The reality is, is that there is almost nothing that he doesn’t like.  Really!  Every other child is picky about something, some of them about LOTS of things.  Even my husband has a general distrust of anything green, though he’ll eat almost anything I put in front of him, because it’s something he didn’t have to cook himself.  But not Noah.  He actually LIKES the food. It’s been rather fun the past several years when I want to experiment with new foods, because no longer am I the only one that likes things.  I can, at least, count on Noah liking it too.  So I have someone else to share my new love of broiled asparagus with olive oil and salt with.  Someone who also looks forward to ratatouille in mid-summer.  Someone who likes rhubarb.

“What do you mean, you like rhubarb?”  I asked him a few years ago.  “Can’t we grow it!?” he asked.  “No. I’m not growing rhubarb for one kid.  Maybe if I also liked it, but I don’t.  It takes years to get established to produce a decent crop and you’ll be grown up and moving out by then, so THEN what will I do with the stuff??  I’ll spend 10 years trying to kill it just like my mom did.”

A couple from our church, good friends of ours, has rhubarb in their backyard.  They’ve asked now and then if we’d like some in the spring and I’ve always turned it down.  “You just need more sugar,” they say.  I’ve answered that if I have to add that much sugar to make it palatable, it’s not worth the effort and can’t possibly be healthy.  So a couple of years ago Noah was old enough to start mowing the lawn, and about once a week he mows “their” yard.  Spring came, and apparently he tried some strawberry rhubarb something-or-other at their house.  He came home rather excited, telling me I need to make some of this stuff – and grow it!  No chance.

The following year they sent home with him 2 or 3 bags of the stuff, frozen, so I could make something for Noah.  A year later I think I tossed it out to the chickens or the compost pile.  I felt guilty about it, as I really had planned to make him some jam, but our strawberries didn’t produce anything that year and I kept forgetting about it, and finally it was freezer-burned and no good.  fruit for pie

I don’t think they gave us any last year, but today Noah mowed their lawn and came home with a medium-sized storage bowl full of chopped rhubarb.  “Can you make a pie tonight?”  *sigh*  I DID just buy some strawberries, though not many and Andrew really likes fresh strawberries, so I didn’t want to use them all in a rhubarb pie.  “Apple rhubarb!” he says.  “Apple?  Does rhubarb go with apple?”  “Pam says it goes with anything!”  (Visualize a 15-year-old giving you puppy dog eyes…)  After dinner he asked – again- if I’m going to make him a pie.  *sigh*  So I pulled out the 1986 Betty Crocker Cookbook to see what I’m supposed to do with this stuff and started to make an apple-rhubarb pie.  I used 2 cups of rhubarb.  Then I chopped a granny smith apple.  That left me just a little short of the 4 cups of fruit I needed.  So I cut up enough strawberries to get us to 4 cups.  One and a third cups sugar, a few flicks of cinnamon (about a teaspoon), 1/3 cup flour.  Mixed it all up.  It did look pretty – green, red and white – and sparkly from the sugar.  I made the pie crust, poured in the fruit, threw on plops of butter, then the top crust, and baked it for 45 minutes at 425 degrees.  In the meantime I put the rest of the chopped rhubarb in 2 freezer bags to save for when our strawberries are in and I can make a batch of strawberry-rhubarb preserves so the boy will be happy.

slice of pieThen the pie was done.  It looked so pretty and smelled really good.  But I’ve been tricked by good smells before.  Like flavored coffee.  Smells good, but it’s nasty stuff.  We let it cool a little while, then Noah and I each took a piece.  A big one for him, little for me.  Oh.  My.  Gosh!  It’s actually yummy!  Not any more tart than an apple pie, and the strawberry in there….  yum!

I’m still not sure if I’m going to plant any of it, but I won’t be turning down any free gifts of it anymore, either 😉