Friday, June 5, 2009

Rhubarb Shortcake

For many years, we had a rhubarb plant growing on the north side of our yard. We used to dare each other to bite into a freshly-plucked stalk, knowing how dreadfully sour it would be. Thinking of it now, the inside of my mouth cringes and waters. In The First Four Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote of her mortification at realizing the "pieplant" pie she baked for the hired threshers had no sugar in it; one kind-hearted man sugared his own slice, claiming that he liked it that way because everyone could sweeten the pie as much or as little as he liked.

My mother often made stewed rhubarb, which she served with shortcake, ladled over ice cream, and my father sometimes ate plain, from a bowl (or from the jar!) with a spoon. She also made rhubarb cobbler, about which I sometimes dream. It was so very delicious and so simple, just rhubarb in an 8x8 square pan, covered with a streusel of butter, brown sugar, rolled oats, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, baked for 20 minutes or so. Technically, I guess it was a "crumble" rather than a "cobbler," but a rose by any other name...

Stewed Rhubarb

4 cups rhubarb, chopped
2/3-3/4 cup sugar (really, to taste)
1/4 cup water

Put rhubarb and water in a medium saucepan. Pour the sugar over the rhubarb, mixing well. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally (and watching that it doesn't burn), until soft. Serve warm, or refrigerate and serve cold on yogurt or oatmeal.


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