June 20, 2010 § 5 Comments
Hurrah! We finally went strawberry picking (after being thwarted last weekend)! And it was, of course, everything I was hoping for. If there is anything in this world that tastes more marvelous – or looks more beautiful – than a rotund, juicy, crimson strawberry, warm from the sun, plucked and eaten right there in the field, well then I’m feeling hard pressed to figure out what it might be. The darling little flavor-packed, mixed variety of strawberries available at peak season on farms and in farmer’s markets should make us feel ashamed that we even call those ginormous, watery things that are shipped around the country most of the year, “strawberries”. They’re just not the same thing at all (though, in the spirit of full disclosure I’ll admit they can be kind of good on occasion, and if someone gives me one dipped in chocolate, I’m afraid I’m not saying “no”).
For me, scrambling around on hands and knees in the dirt, searching for the jewel red berries, as if collecting treasure, sends my gatherer instinct into hyperactive mode. And eating the berries themselves. Well, now that is the really good part. A ripe strawberry needs nothing else. It defies my standard food writing vocabulary, even the most flowery stuff I can muster, and sends me searching for some deep extended metaphor, or something, to convey my feelings. Maybe a spiritual metaphor, or a relationship metaphor. I picture myself telling them “Strawberries, you are absolutely perfect just exactly as you are.” And isn’t that all any of us really want to hear in a relationship, and believe about ourselves? « Read the rest of this entry »
April 20, 2010 § 8 Comments
At this point in my life, pie and crisp may be the first things that come to mind when I think of rhubarb. And sure, it’s what I just wrote about. But, this wasn’t always the case. I think that I didn’t actually try rhubarb crisp for the first time until I was in late childhood when I had it at a neighbor’s house. Rhubarb pie came even later! My first experience with eating rhubarb was one of the simplest possible, and one I still love. You just take a freshly picked and cleaned stalk of rhubarb (leaf removed!) and a small cup of sugar. Dip the end of the rhubarb in the sugar, then take a bite. The sugar hits you first and softens the blow of what you’re about to experience. But, the sweetness of the sugar can’t shackle the true nature of rhubarb. The amazing, almost biting, sour flavor bursts through the thin veneer of sugar to fill your mouth, making you pucker your lips and squinch up your eyes. Then you dip again and go back for more! It’s the kind of eating experience that gives you an adrenaline rush.
But, if you’re not quite up for that, the other way I remember having it was as different from this as could be, wonderfully sweet rhubarb soup – topped with whipped cream of course. This is a pretty standard dessert soup in Norway, as is rosehip soup actually. Andreas Viestad, the wonderful (and cute – I got to help him make some desserts for a talk once and totally developed a crush, hehe!) Norwegian food writer and cookbook author says he hated rhubarb soup when he was little because his family made a really sour version. This one does not run up against that problem.
April 17, 2010 § 5 Comments
Until I moved to Boston when I was 23, it just never occurred to me that backyards don’t automatically come fully equipped with rhubarb. All my life I’d just had rhubarb there for me each summer (in cold places it doesn’t appear until summer!). Even my apartment in college had rhubarb in the yard! So, when I moved to Boston and the time of year rolled around when I start pining for rabarbra suppe (rhubarb soup) or rhubarb cake or pie or compote, I was a little shocked to find that our tiny snippet of a back yard didn’t deliver.
None of my apartments since then have come with rhubarb either! It’s terrible really. I’d like to register a complaint!! Also, did you know that if you plant a rhubarb, you have to wait two years to harvest any or you might kill it. How terribly inconvenient for your transient early twenties! But, this may finally be the year to pop one into the vegetable garden. We’ll see. (Speaking of veggie gardens, did you know that rhubarb is really a vegetable? And – most people already know this, but it’s always good to be reminded – the leaves are poisonous, so cut them off and don’t eat them!! And wash your hands and the stalks.)
February 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
In keeping with the theme I seem to be following about trying to keep up one’s spirits in the proverbial ‘bleak midwinter’, we had a party this weekend. We have kind of a funny tradition of starting a separate New Year in mid-February, and instead of numbering the years, we give them a name indicating what we hope they will be. It all started just a bit ago with a year that had gotten off to an unfortunate start. Instead of continuing with the year, we decided to reject it outright, and in mid-February we started a New Year. We’ve had the “Best Year Ever (BYE);” last year was the “Best Year Imaginable (BYI);” and on Saturday we officially kicked off the “Best Year Conceivable (BYC).” Maybe we’re banking on the power of positive thinking. Maybe it’s just another excuse to host a party and bake ridiculous quantities of goodies.
Last year I did a sort-of stone soup, where everyone brought a vegetable, which we added to a pot of broth to make soup (it worked out surprisingly well!). But, this year I had a mega baking bug and for some reason had an overwhelming desire to spend an entire day in the kitchen creating delicious chocolate nibbles and red colored drinkable concoctions. This daylong baking adventure led to the production of waaaaay more desserts than we actually could eat amongst the group of us who gathered (and trust me, we’d practically even skipped dinner in order to save room). But then, since when is a little abundance a bad thing? I just plan on making lots of new friends or at least earning some good will at the office now by doling out leftover sweets. « Read the rest of this entry »