Somehow in my more than 30 years (ahem) on this planet I have missed (escaped?) a run-in with that lithe, fuchsia vegetable known as rhubarb. Sure, I know what it is and what it looks like. I know people bake with it, and that it is often married with strawberries and featured in things called “slumps” and “grunts,” or more familiarly, crumbs, crisps and pies. I’ve never actually had the pleasure (?) myself, though.
I sort of despise celery, unless it’s well cloaked in soup or sauce, so avoidance of rhubarb in its resemblance to pink celery could have been unconscious. That certainly doesn’t endear me to it.
But people seem to speak of rhubarb with a certain reverence — as a plucky little vegetable that transforms from a crunchy and bitter stalk to a tart, soft compote. It creates desserts that we associate with our heritage, like those old English puddings and American-settler era fruit crisps. I’ve heard rhubarb described as “what tart would smell like, if tart were a smell.”*
Keep reading »