‘Twas in that land of great antiquity, in Egypt, land of pharaohs, pyramids, shawabti, mummies and sarcophagi, that two souls met amidst the dusty ruins – those proffered promises of life eternal, (not to be) – now only pillaged tombs left violated, robbed of gold and gems. The only laughter that of robbers’ glee, then darkness, silence for eternity. So, too, these broken souls with history, now robbed of joy, of love and even hope, seemed empty as that promised afterlife.
Yet in this theatre of dust and death, a seed was planted and new life took breath.
When I was growing up on the farm, there were two sure-fire signs of spring – the first feed of asparagus and the first feed of rhubarb. Daily, we visited the two longs rows of asparagus, the one long row of rhubarb, searching for those first nubbins breaking through the soil. Especially the rhubarb.
And then, there it was! We yanked an armload of rhubarb stalks and marched triumphantly to the house, precious booty in hand.
Our rhubarb was the old-fashioned green kind, to be eaten only with generous amounts of added sugar. The first feed was always plain and simple — stewed rhubarb, often served with cream. Real cream! The so-called whipping cream you buy in the store is a mere pale imitation of the cream from our Jersey and Guernsey cows. So thick, you could stand a spoon in it. You could cut it with a knife.
Or so I recall.
Only after we had sated our appetite for rhubarb on its own did Mom then turn to rhubarb crisp and rhubarb pie. We filled numerous freezer bags with chopped rhubarb to see us through the winter.
And then rhubarb season was over. But we had memories of what had been, memories that would remind us of what was to come.
A couple of springs ago, when rhubarb season was at its peak, our writing group decided to collect rhubarb recipes. And so I give you:
Rhubarb Pie, a recipe(sort of) (With apologies to William Shakespeare)
How shall I make thee on a summer’s day? The day’s so hot and sultry, yet my mouth Doth water at the thought of rhubarb pie. I don my hat and brave the summer heat. I pluck an armful, and with sharpened knife Cut thee in dice like rubies shining red. Thy tangy taste I soften some with sugar And flour holds thy juices well at bay. Thy pastry bed I make with flour and lard That glistens like a pearl ‘neath summer moon. Once mounded in the dish, I crown thee last With butter and with nutmeg and a cap. Then bake one hour full, and when ‘tis done The joy of eating pie is soon begun.
The fallen leaves lay strewn on the ground,
resplendent in their gold, whilst up above
the screeching jay — a blaze of brilliant blue —
competes with magpie at the feeding station.
Sparrows, dressed in drab, with dove and finch
forage and feed on scratchings in the grass,
and startled, whir as one to hide and watch
and wait while tawny, sharp-clawed predator
creeps, crouches, switches tail, departs.
The last warm wind of summer shakes the trees
and sends leaves rattling down. The lady bugs
take shelter ‘neath this blanket, sleep and dream.
For Autumn’s not the end, just Nature’s pause.
To give much needed rest, its only cause.