Sunday, June 29, 2008

Food Memory
Remembering my Mother, domestic goddess, mother of seven
and her famous rhubarb crunch

Here's a photo of my mother with my little sis on our back porch in Idaho. This was taken during the days of her nationally-renowned domestic goddess phase when she almost single-handedly raised 7 children and baked 3 meals a day including amazing desserts like the rhubarb crunch listed below! Not only was she a domestic goddess, she made her Hollywood debut as the star of Name That Tune close to the year when this photograph was taken.

Rhubarb reminds me of a traditional Sunday dessert my mother often made in June and July. My mother has been away for about a year on a humanitarian mission and I miss her, especially today, so I made her Rhubarb Crunch. It's a gooey cobbler with a crunchy topping that helps me remember her! It was a recipe she learned from her own mother.

Rhubarb Crunch
My mom and her well-loved recipe

1 cup flour
1 cup oats (not quick oats)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cube butter

(Mix together, add cinnamon if you'd like! You can also replace the white flour with wheat flour.)

Several (7 or 8) stalks of rhubarb

1 cup water
1 cup sugar (or half honey)
1 tsp vanilla

Put it together according to following steps and then cook at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Test rhubarb with fork to make sure it's soft.


Take about 6-7 cups of rhubarb
Cut off the edges and wash well

Cut up into cubes

Take the flour, butter and brown sugar and mix together.

Add 1 cup of sugar into water and heat over the stove until it's melted and hot but not boiling (I used 1/4 cup wildflower honey and 3/4 cup raw sugar.)

Put half of the crumbly mixture onto the bottom of a pan, layer with chopped up rhubarb, then pour on the sugar/water mixture.

Then top with the remainder of the crumbly mixture.

And bake for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees.

Sunday dinners at my home growing up were always memorable, the smell of pot roast, onions & rosemary in the air when we arrived home from our Mormon church meeting famished from sitting for 3 hours and eating only a meager morsel of bread (the sacrament.) But for my mother, (who had 7 children) Sunday was most likely a three- ringed circus trying to get us all fed and to the dinner table while the food was still hot. Of course it helped that my Dad called for us with his commanding deep voice and we'd all coming running like little mice from our respective rooms to perch at the table and pick at the food until my Dad caught us and told us to knock it off. We'd wait till everyone was there and then it was time for the dinner prayer.

We always prayed over dinner, different variations of: "Dear God, thank you for the food and please bless it to nourish and strengthen our bodies and do us the good that we need... AMEN!"

We loved the youngest siblings' versions. I'm not even sure they knew they were saying "nourish and strengthen." What came our was usually something like "nurse-en-stank" - sounds Scandinavian doesn't it?

And I remember closing my eyes and though I was supposed to be imagining the God who provided the food and meditating on how grateful I was, I admit, most of the time, I pictured the dinner table in my head and the exact location of the dish of mashed potatoes- deliciously soft with a square of yellow butter melting in the center. I pictured this so I would be the first to grab it when the last Amen was said.

My mother was the kind of woman who involved all of us in cooking dinner and in preparing the table as well.

Finding the Centerpiece

It was a time-honored tradition in my family for someone to go out and find a centerpiece for the middle of the table. In the summer, we picked stray wildflowers: daisies, camas, yarrow, sunflowers and others and put them into the prettiest vase we could find in the cupboard. In the fall we found dried weeds and grasses; branches with pine cones still attached and things like that. In the winter, I think we looked in the cupboards and drawers for anything that would make-do, like a candle that Mom had caught a toddler gnawing on and we stuffed it inside a candle holder of our own fashioning then used something round, like a berry wreath left over from Christmas to circle the candle. All of these lovely centerpieces were highly prized by my mother who made us feel as though we had just painted the Mona Lisa or something.

And dinner always consisted of something green (a veggie) something fried, some kind of bread (muffin, biscuit, etc.) and most of the time there was something on the table that today would be called "local:" Elk or antelope meat or trout that my Dad had bagged in the woods or caught in the stream. We ate wild mushrooms. We loved morels and picked them right by the river close to our home. Idaho potatoes of course! Or we'd have canned food that my mom had canned the previous summer: pears, peaches, cherries, or pickles or even something that our family friends, the Fosters, had brought us fresh from their garden down in the valley south of our home. They brought us things like snap peas and rhubarb.

So rhubarb has become one of my comfort foods. It reminds of of a few things- my mom, because she made the most amazing rhubarb crunch and the Fosters, who often brought us rhubarb from their home.


Reid Parham said...

Awesome photos! They make me hungry. My parents house had a row of rhubarb plants for a long time. My mom would make several batches of rhubarb pies each year and often froze the extras.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane :-)

The Rambler said...

Sweet! I've always been intrigued by rhubard, but a bit confused by what to do with it (alright I admit I was also a little chicken).

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