Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rhapsody on Rhubarb

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why did the baker first put strawberries and rhubarb together in a pie -- to stretch the (expensive) strawberries or to make a strange ingredient (rhubarb) palatable to millions who are unaquainted with old fashioned pie plant?

Both my father and my late husband disliked rhubarb anything. And they certainly were not alone; rhubarb may be an aquired taste. For example, I regularly make a small batch of rhubarb sauce for myself and my mother who lives at a local assisted living facility, where once in a great while strawberry-rhubarb pie is served. I made some today, hence the picture above. Mom grooves on anything that's, as she says, "tarty".

Turns out that rhubarb is well represented on-line. is sort of the Rhubarb Central for everything you wanted to know about this highly acidic vegetable used in lieu of fruit. (The slender pink stalks come into season much earlier than any of the favorite pie fruits, hence the traditional use and name.)

Then there's an entry at an organic food site from Alaska which reminds us about the other use of the word "rhubarb", usually in connection with baseball season:

The use of the word "rhubarb" dates back to the early days of Shakespearean theater, a use that carried forward to present day. Dictionaries first define rhubarb as the lovable, edible plant that it is. Then the slang definition follows. To prepare you, let's get the feeling behind it. Say RHU-barb with attitude. Now you can see how the word became synonymous with a heated argument or squabble. One dictionary even went so far as to link rhubarb to baseball, where a rhubarb meant sparks were flying between the umpire and the pitcher.

Also at this site -- a wild variety of recipes featuring rhubarb. Including the criminal offense of diluting it with strawberries in a pie.

If you are ever in need of a Real Rhubarb Pie fix, may I recommend two local sources: Berry's, over at 7840 East SR 69 (actually, Frontage Road) in Prescott Valley, and Young's Farm, still in Dewey (but not for much longer.) You'll be pleased.


pb said...

Is it an acquired taste? Or something more like liver: some absolutely loathe it, while others are estatic about it.

We used to have contests with the tarter, smaller stalks. Who can eat it without making a face?

Strawberry rhubarb anything (we ate it as a thick sauce with cream) takes me back home.

Granny J said...

I think that to some, it's like fingernails on blackboards (anyone remember those?)

I'm lucky enough to have a friend who makes a mean rhubarb pie and who has a husband who loves rhubarb!

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