Friday, June 7, 2013

Rhubarb ...


Marlene Terry

Now that were into the growing season, I want to make my case about rhubarb. The truth is the thought of it makes me cringe, and the sight of it makes me want to run for cover.
Oh how I wish we'd had the Internet back in my growing up years when my mom, the rhubarb guru of her generation, was working hard to include it, I swear, in every dish her children ate. Then I would have had the proof I needed when I told her "RHUBARB MAKES ME SICK!"
A favorite nowadays online video features an attractive young women discussing the reasons why one should never include the leaves from that plant as greens in a salad. "Kidney damage," is mentioned as well as death.
OK. I admit it. The spokesperson also said that one would have to eat at least 10 pounds of rhubarb to have the latter happen. But I still wake up in a sweat now and then remembering my mom standing in the garden, with a rhubarb stalk in her hand along with the salt shaker. ... Salt she said, took away the sourness and enhanced the flavor of the fresh, just picked version.

Suffice it to say I wasn't the least bit interested. But being a child under the auspices of my parents' stewardship, I ate my share. ... I also stuffed a large number of salted stalks, whenever I could get away with it, in my underwear drawer. The perfect place for rhubarb, I thought.

We always grew a ton of rhubarb — part of the reason, I think, that my mother felt she had to find ways to use it. We had rhubarb cookies, rhubarb pies, rhubarb bread, rhubarb cobblers and I seem to remember even a try at rhubarb sandwiches. And when we just couldn't eat any more, Mom would chop the stalks, and place them in bottles to can. And why?
So we wouldn't be without rhubarb IN THE WINTER, of course!

Winter was the season of "Red Mush." And although I'm not certain of the recipe, I do remember that the rhubarb was placed in a big pot on the stove and was cooked, cooked and cooked some more, before being strained, mashed to a pulp and becoming a bright red 'pudding with chunks' type of dish. It was our nighttime treat!

... And considering my disposition to gag at the drop of a hat, it's no wonder that it seemed like hours before some of those chunks moved down my throat to my stomach.
"Red Mush keeps the germs away," Mom would say.
She believed it and we hoped she was right. Because if Red Mush let a germ or two through, we knew for sure that a mustard plaster (shudder) would follow.
... Yep, it's true! There were times those good old days were just plain scary!


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