Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Open Letter to Rhubarb

Dear Rhubarb,

You are that devastating combination of enchanting and impossible.

No other produce looks as though it could have been nibbled on by dinosaurs.

What other vegetable went to court to demand the right to be considered a fruit? Arguing that you think like a fruit and you act like a fruit, you insisted on being regulated and taxed as such. Had I been around in 1947, I would have held signs outside the courthouse on your behalf: "Veg no more!" and "Reduce the Pie Tax!"

What other food item could be grown in the average backyard and offer such delicious stalks and such deadly leaves? You, my colorful friend, are the land version of the blowfish.

What other food item so beautifully represents a dessert of old? I know of no one whose mother or grandfather doesn't have a particular affinity for rhubarb pie.

Your color alone makes you a photographer's sweetheart. Greens and purples and red that stains a dry cutting board.

Vegetable indeed.

And yet...we still struggle. What about all those times we tried to make cocktail syrup together, and though the steps are right and the result is beautiful, you disappoint. Where is that character? Where is that quality that is so distinctly YOU? If all I wanted out of this was tasteless pink sugar syrup, I'd just mix Kool-Aid into my cocktails.

Excited as I am to see you swimming in sugar, happy as it makes me to see your natural juices come out naturally to frolic with the flour and butter, I'll admit, I am nervous about seeing you in pastry.

I know, I know, hundreds of thousands of pies have been made with you over the years. And I know you're great at it. But why can't we get it right? Why can't you and I have what others have?

I just want to be like everybody else. I want you to be a regular part of my summer.

All the components for our success are there. Is it assembly? Is it execution? Oh Rhubarb, why can't we make it work?

You have a legacy of greatness in pastry. And yet, and yet, when you and I come together, despite our best intentions, eventually, the levee breaks. Everything good and proper that we have worked so hard for comes spilling over the edges.

Foolish as we are, we turn to outside sources in vain attempts to prop up our relationship. And still, disaster ensues.

I don't want to leave you. I don't want to wander the aisle of the produce section and pretend not to see your bright red stalks smiling up at me.

Rhubarb, dear rhubarb. I'm not giving up on us.


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