A Bit of Midwestern Spring in the West

If you’re from Southern California, chances are you could live your whole life never having tasted rhubarb. The darn stuff really doesn’t grow here, just like peonies, lilacs and good apples. There are some things bred to resemble the items listed above but by and large, they just can't compare. If you’re from a part of the country where the ground freezes or at least gets hit with heavy frost, odds are that rhubarb is part of spring for you, just like peonies and lilacs. Sigh, just thinking of those voluptuously decadent looking flower heads and the heavenly scented bouquets of grand orchid and purple buds makes me ache. In Chicago and many other places in the Midwest, lilacs grow like weeds and can easily be found in alleyways. Their boisterous growth is tolerated chiefly due to the prize they bestow upon everyone in the spring. Scads of heavy bouquets whose scent makes you swoon.

So, when one discovers a bounty of rhubarb in the supermarket for .99/lb., one goes a little wild! I’ve never seen it available for less than $2.99 to $3.99/lb. I have spent the morning scouring the internet for recipes. I did have my mom’s for sauce, pie, crisps and cobblers, but have no idea where they are at the moment.

Initially, I started small, just rhubarb sauce. It’s something you can just dish up and eat like a soupy pudding or spoon over ice cream. Of course, then I noticed the same store had a pound of strawberries for .99! Well, the project and hunt for recipes grew and I was up to lattice topped strawberry rhubarb pie. It’s amazing how maniacal one can become over something that in another part of the country, is given away freely to friends and family because you just have so much. When I lived in Chicago that was the case. The house we bought had two fabulous buried treasures we didn’t know about when we bought it. The backyard held a 10’ x 15’ bed containing rows of rhubarb as well as an even bigger bed of peonies. A huge apple tree that defied identification topped this bounty. It must have been what everyone now refers to as heirloom. The taste was stunning. To this day I have not had an apple as wonderful. Of course, I’m overlooking the worms in the apples and the tonnage that could build up on the ground below the tree. Fortunately we had some wonderful neighbors, an elderly couple, who were raised in North Dakota and Indiana. They had gone through the Depression (the first one) and happily took all the fallen apples for applesauce, which we all enjoyed up through the next spring.

Ok, this has become a real tangent, sorry! I will end for the moment because I’m going to run off and get more provisions for my project. I’ll let you know what I wind up making once I decide. Till then I hope you have a magical spring.



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