By Alexandra Burguieres
When I found out today was National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie day, I was surprised for many reasons, but the biggest was that I had just finished the last slice of a strawberry-rhubarb pie. It was the first taste of rhubarb I’d had in years, but the pie — not this specific one, but strawberry-rhubarb pies in general — played a big role in the family vacations I was subjected to as a child.
It should be disclosed here that my family has a habit of spicing up its relatively boring existence with the installment of trivial quests. Anything that is weird and rare — candy cigarettes, ceramic pie birds, white balsamic vinegar — is scooped up and declared a “find,” with the understanding that if found again it should be horded until our family has gathered the world’s biggest supply. If the find becomes too popular or familiar, we lose interest and move onto a new pursuit.
One of my dad’s favorite quests has always been strawberry-rhubarb pie. Not exactly rare anymore, it still elicits a nostalgic pang of delight when discovered. We took family trips to London and small English towns, and weekend jaunts to Amish markets in Pennsylvania. Many of these drives to bizarre places were under the pretence of visiting family or spending time together, but I’m pretty sure it was all in search of sliced rhubarb spending time with some gooey strawberries in a rich and flaky crust.
So when I was grocery shopping recently and saw the thick red stalks next to the grapes and cherries, I picked some up along with a carton of strawberries. When I was growing up (in Bethesda, Maryland), rhubarb at the neighborhood store wouldn’t have happened. Indigenous to Asia, the tart stalk was introduced as a foodstuff by the Brits, and people are still debating whether this was a good thing. Its polarizing effect made it a rarity at my local grocer’s.
I read a few recipes and concocted my own, which is a euphemism for admitting I’m too lazy to measure any ingredients. When my dad tried it, he declared it — without a hint of irony — the best strawberry-rhubarb pie he ever had. He sat on the front porch, quietly savoring the flavor.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
“Where’d you find the rhubarb?” he asked.
That pie was probably the most bittersweet we’d ever had, knowing that rhubarb down the road was a sign of imminent omnipresence to come. It’s funny how things taste different when you don’t have to sit in a hot car with your sisters or fly over an ocean to get them. But maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
Photo: Kitchen Wench via Flickr