Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Repost Brought on By Rhubarb

Here's my "Remembering Rosie's and Rhubarb" story I first posted way back in 2008.

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I really, really like rhubarb and whenever I'm cooking with it I always think of Rosie's Cafe.  The first few years my husband and I were married, we lived 55 miles away from where I worked full-time and he worked part-time while going to school full-time.  It was a good hour's drive one way.  Occasionally on our way home at night, we would treat ourselves and stop at Rosie's Cafe for a quick dinner.  The small restaurant was owned and operated by three sisters.  Rosie was the waitress and the other two sisters worked in the kitchen.  This was in the early '60s and all the food was made from scratch and good.  There was a printed menu but there was always an "evening special" utilizing fresh produce and meat that was available in the local farming community.  Eating at Rosie's was a great experience.  I often dream of going back there, but the sisters would all be 100+ years old now . . . and probably not doing much cooking.

Now, pie has always been my very favorite dessert.  As a new cook, I had heard that making good pie crust was a real art so was a little gun-shy about trying it.  Instead, I purchased packages of Betty Crocker's "pie sticks" (they looked just like quarter pounds of butter) which you rolled out and, tah-dah, there was your pie crust.  One day my dear husband said very kindly, "Hon, until you have time to learn how to make pie crust, why don't we just skip the pies."  Well.  I could take a hint.  No pies went in or out of my oven for some time.

Back to Rosie's.  Each spring, Rhubarb Pie was sure to be offered.  Outside of the fact that Rhubarb Pie is close to being my very favorite kind of pie, Rosie's crust was wonderful; flaky, tender, melted in your mouth.  So one night after polishing off a piece of delectable Rhubarb Pie, I asked Rosie what the secret was to making such great pie crust.  She replied that I would have to ask her sister as she was the pie baker.  In short order, one of the sisters came out of the kitchen to chat with us.  Cleverly avoiding revealing her own crust recipe ingredients, she did say that I had to remember two things.  The first was to use ice water when mixing the flour and shortening.  The second was to always make the pie crusts and then let them rest in the refrigerator overnight before rolling them out and making the pies.

So back to the drawing board I went and eventually came up with a good crust recipe.  Matter of fact, my career in the restaurant business started with going to a friend's restaurant at 4:30 in the morning and baking pies.  And, yes, I made lots and lots of rhubarb pies.   After I had my own restaurant, hubby and I contracted with a lady living somewhat south of us who had long rows of luxuriant rhubarb plants.  We bought over 100 pounds of rhubarb each year, processed and froze it so I could make rhubarb pies throughout the year.

Recently I found a cookbook that was obviously written for rhubarb lovers.  Recipes using rhubarb to make everything from beverages to jams to salads to desserts.  What fun I'm having working my way through it.  If the old wives' tale about rhubarb being a cleansing, spring tonic is true, boy, are we in good shape.

My rhubarb plant currently looks a trifle lopsided, and possibly a little over-picked, so I should refrain from any rhubarb concoctions for a week or so.  But I can still go bake some other kind of pie.  I like to think Rosie and her sisters would be proud.

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Well, here it is Saturday and I think it's been two days since I've picked and used any rhubarb.  Time for another hit on my giant plant out there in the garden.


Sparkless said...

Two whole days?!! Well get out there and get some rhubarb. And don't forget to post a mouth watering pic of whatever you bake with it.

I think our rhubarb plant has seen better days. She used to be huge but now is spindly and sad looking. I guess I'll split her this fall and hope for the best.

Mama Pea said...

Sparkless - It's been threatening to rain all day and I kept doing other things so failed to get the rhubarb I wanted picked before the rain drove me inside. Oh, well, tomorrow's another day!

Sparkless said...

Can't you pick it in the rain? I was so ready to enjoy reading about your next rhubarb ecstasy dessert. I guess I'll have to eat my ginger snap instead.

nancy said...

Mine's taking forever to change to a red color. I think I need to move it to a sunnier spot. My neighbor gave me tons last year, and we ate lots of it!

Leigh said...

My dad and I were just talking about rhubarb. He lives in northern Illinois and can grow it like gang busters. Our summers are just too hot. :(

Susan said...

You have shamed me into going back out there and raiding the rhubarb patch! If nothing else, I need to freeze some for winter.

Mama Pea said...

Nancy - I think rhubarb really does like lots of sunshine although I've seen it growing (and seeming to flourish) along a shady side of a house.

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - We were both raised in northern Illinois and always found it plentiful there, too. Your summers are too hot, but I've also read that rhubarb needs the "freezing" temps of winter to make its cycle complete.

Mama Pea said...

Susan - I picked and froze so many fillings for rhubarb pies this weekend that I have to let my plant rest and recuperate for a while!

Lisa said...

Great story. Isn't it interesting how many of our best memories center around 'food'?! I'd heard of using ice water when making pie crusts' but not the letting it rest. Definitely think Rosie and her sisters would be proud of you! My mouth always starts watering when you start talking about all the delicious cooking you are up to!

Mama Pea said...

Lisa - You are so sweet! Always so encouraging.

Yes, food is such a huge part of our lives. Think of all the rituals, celebrations, get-togethers that are centered around food. It's always present. (Perhaps too much so!)

Anonymous said...

I love this, Mama Pea! I am also a rhubarb fan - hoping to harvest some from our plants for the first time this year. I looked at your rhubarb crunch recipe (archives) and mine is very similar - isn't that a delicious dessert?

Enjoy your day. :)