I have no desire to be regarded as a crank, which would suggest I should keep my mouth shut about certain topics about which I have opinions which are not in line with those of the majority. Still, this is the Facebook Age, when social manners demand that you shout such things at the top of your lungs.
And I wasn’t planning to turn this blog toward the subject of food again so soon. I am not a culinary expert, and I would not qualify to play one on TV.
Besides, it’s June, when, of you happen to be aged and gray, means certain foods are currently In Season. This means very little at the store nowadays, but it does mean you will see certain things available on menus, especially at those places which like to brag they use locally sourced ingredients. And certain ingredients feed my imagination as well as, I fear, my wrath.
I like strawberries. When I was a child, I encountered them primarily in frozen form. A can of strawberries was opened and would be poured over vanilla ice cream and (occasionally) angel food cake. I have not checked recently, but I suspect this food of the gods is no longer available, like a lot of the canned fruits I knew as a child. I occasionally tan into strawberry shortcake, but this was, I am informed, MOCK strawberry shortcake, with strawberries poured over sponge cake. Only when I was older did I experience strawberry shortcake made with shortcake, and I was convinced that shortcake is the natural habitat of strawberries. (I know many, many ;people who live largely on strawberry jam, and I admit this is good, too. There are plenty of strawberries, after all,)
I grew up in a house where rhubarb regularly grew, and I have eaten rhubarb in many forms. A sales clerk told me once that rhubarb is “a Midwestern thing”, but this is not so. Rhubarb is enjoyed throughout the western world, especially in areas where fruit trees do not grow. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but is regarded as a fruit by many, as it is known almost universally as The Pie Plant. I have eaten many good rhubarb crisps and rhubarb sauces, but pie is the natural home of rhubarb.
I hope I do not seem overly conservative, but I would like to state here and now that strawberries and rhubarb, excellent by themselves, should be enjoyed that way. Make your strawberry pie if you must, or your rhubarb shortcake. But if you serve me strawberry-rhubarb pie, I will make an annoying grimace before I give in and eat it. See,. To me, strawberry-rhubarb pie tastes neither like strawberries nor like rhubarb. It is a pleasant enough pie, but I think of it as a waste of good fruits, much as one of my muses, Will Cuppy, regarded pineapple pie.
Yes, I KNOW rhubarb and strawberries are ready to eat in June. This does not excuse mixing them together. Do you make strawberry-asparagus pie, by any chance? Then you see what IO…you, in the fourth row! You are nodding. Do you make…no, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.
Do not foist your strawberry-rhubarb pie on me, thank you. Save that lattice crust for cherry and blueberry pies, where it belongs. And as long as I have doomed myself to ignominy already, I may as well admit that the most commonly encountered rhubarb pie, which is rather like an apple pie only with rhubarb and a lot more sugar, is not what I would choose either. My mother served exclusively rhubarb meringue pie, in which the rhubarb is suspended in a sort of custard and which is fit for monarchs at the rank of emperor and above. In an act of lunatic generosity, I made one once and took it with me to work, and was gratified to see it consumed in very little time. (This did not happen when I tried my mother’s peach pie on the same crowd, but we’ll save that recipe for another time.)
For those who have read this far, in mounting anger, yes, that is actually a postcard showing lemon meringue pie. I figured I needed something to remind everyone that we write mainly about postcards here, and did not have any rhubarb postcards to show. Doesn’t matter: the powerful strawberry-rhubarb forces will have this column deleted from the Interwebs at any moment now.