Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sour Grapes and Rhubarb

Man, what’s with me? Goodness knows, I’m old enough to know better. What made me scoop up all those baskets of fresh strawberries on that trip into town? Particularly since I solemnly promised myself years ago, I wouldn’t do that again.

I know from experience that bringing home peaches, pears, plums, and strawberries when they are in season is nothing more than a ‘make work project’. I know that, but still the groceries are put away and I am now face-to-face with four large baskets of fresh strawberries in the middle of my table with mocking seedy little eyes peering through plastic weave prisons directly at me.

“So, now what are you going to do with us? Particularly since we are the freshest we will be at this very moment. And you can stop kidding yourself. Tomorrow, even tomorrow, slow deterioration will be setting in.”

There’s no point in explaining that I’ve had a lot of company, and yesterday I planted a monster garden including solo-planting of five eternally-long rows of potatoes. There’s no point in explaining that I am utterly pooped and that this rainy day was to be a Rest and Recovery Day. There’s no point in any of it.

So I head to the cellar and gather up jars and lids and begin washing, scalding, and sterilizing. And while that is happening I make a quick trip to the garden, to do nothing more than admire the hard labor of yesterday, but end up distracted by all that young, crisp, tender, sweet (?) rhubarb that also longs to be tended to while in its prime.

So now I have two pails of rhubarb and all those strawberries ‘yipe’ing at me about the immediacy of freshness and flavor. For just a moment I consider the easiest solution is to mix them all together and make jam.

But no, the strawberries want to stand alone. And the rhubarb isn’t too pleased either. So more jars from the basement and two large pots on the stove. One for pure strawberry jam, and one for my standard fuss-free rhubarb jam I usually make companioned with strawberry jello.

Now what struck me midst my exhaustion and dragging feet and frustration at having to deal with all this stuff, was the business of ‘sweet’ rhubarb. Surely words are to convey exactly what we are doing and how we are feeling. So what’s with that ever-more repeated phrase ‘crisp, young, SWEET rhubarb’?

Man, if rhubarb is sweet, then so is barbed-wire scrapes, wasp stings, and sour milk.

But still life goes on. Eventually the jam is jarred, the kitchen reconstructed and the mess cleaned up. And on the counter are six jars of strawberry jam and ten jars of rhubarb and strawberry-jello jam and the small bit of overage in two small saucers. So now the taste test.

I taste the strawberry.
Yum. Field-fresh and sunshine good.

I taste the rhubarb.
How sweet it is.

Now I’m going to get a fluffy blanket and I’m going to the big chair for a very long rainy-day nap.


Matty said...

Roberta...I bet I'd never catch you with dishes in the sink.
I hope you dipped a couple of those strawberries in chocolate for yourself (& Hub)you sure earned it. You're a put me to shame!

Joy Des Jardins said... will have deserved that long awaited rest with your fluffy blanket in that big chair....but oh, those jars and jars of delicious mouth-watering morsels you made for everyone to enjoy. You brough back such wonderful memories of when I was a girl and my grandmother made all those amazing things....jams, jellies, pickles, pies, preserves. Oh, my head would spin just watching her make it all....and tasting it along the way. Those homemade smells are still with me to this day. That's the kind of legacy you must be building with your family Roberta.

Roberta S said...

matty, you give me too much credit. Dirty dishes in the sink don't bother me a bit -- it's only when they won't all fit and they start overflowing onto counterspace that I am motivated to do a clean up.
Thanks for visiting, matty. I'm always so pleased when you stop by. Hope all is well with you.

Roberta S said...

Hi joy. I don't think I deliberately planned to leave any legacy, but truth is the grandkids howl for homemade jam and bread. And when they get it, they are pleased as punch. When my efforts give them that much pleasure, I'm pretty compelled to do this stuff even though at the time it seems like a nasty chore.

Pauline said...

Had to laugh at the image of the strawberries peering with seedy little eyes out of their plastic cages. Rhubarb awaits the cooking pot in my own kitchen. I haven't any strawberries but I will top the sauce with a crumble mixture sprinkled with a few pecans and make it tonight's dessert.

Roberta S said...

Sounds positively yummy, pauline. What time will you be serving dessert?

Pauline said...

Wouldn't it be fun to share a bowl of rhubarb crisp and a cup of tea? Come on down!

Kate said...

Am I the only one in the world who can't stand rhubarb?! To me it tastes like stewed weeds from the bottom of a pond! I was served an upside-down rhubarb cake recently and had to eat it and almost gagged. Anyone else? Help!

Roberta S said...

kate, of course it is like 'stewed weeds' if it is not served warm and topped with ice cream.

As also is the case for rhubarb pie, tarts, etc.

But rhubarb wine? -- Plain, is good.

S L Cunningham said...

Whenever I ate anything with rhubarb in it, I would say, "Gee, this reminds me of something, but I could never figure out what until I read Kate's comment:
"Stewed weeds from the bottom of a pond!"
Too, funny. But not far off, which is why I think strawberries and a generous addition of sugar is an absolute necessity when it comes to making a pie with it.
Your blog is nice place to come to for a good read. Thanks for coming by my way and commenting. I've added your site to my blogroll.


Roberta S said...

Scot, thanks for the comment. I am pleased to be added to your blogroll and honored to add you to mine.

I agree with you that Kate's comment is too funny. I found myself writing a blog today and thinking it pretty much fell into the category of "stewed weeds from the bottom of a pond".