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I Heard Someone Say “Rhubarb”

Today I bought a bunch of rhubarb at the Farmer’s Market downtown. I passed by several stands before I came to one that looked to have a very nice selection of ruby-red stalks with some green parts in between.

“This is all grown on a farm in Elk River,” the lady said to me from behind the stand.

“It looks beautiful,” I said. I thought it looked like a real bargain too at $2 a bunch. Other stands were selling their rhubarb for $3 or $4 a bunch and the colors weren’t as vibrant.

“The honey dew is a $1 each,” she said as she opened a plastic bag. My friend and I looked at the large melons, and we looked at each other and laughed.

“No, we both ride the bus, and it would be too much to cart on there. I can just imagine the melon rolling down the aisle,” I laughed.

“Well, we don’t want to haul it back either!” she said. She packed up the rhubarb for me, and away we went.

It all started about a month ago when I heard someone say rhubarb. I started to think about the rhubarb sauce my Mom used to make for us when I was a little kid. She served it to us warm over cold vanilla ice cream.  I searched recipes on-line, looked through my own cookbooks to see what recipes I could find for rhubarb sauce, but deep inside I knew that I really wanted to use the recipe that my Mom used for her rhubarb sauce.  I wish I knew I wanted that recipe way before now.

Today when I got home, I searched through Mom’s recipe box and cookbook for the first time since I became their new owner. The recipe box had tabbed dividers that said: Beverages, Bread, Cake, etc. When I found casserole recipes under the Sauce tab, I figured out that Mom didn’t divide the recipes up accordingly, so I leafed through the entire box. There I found the many recipes that I typed up for Mom when I was just a little kid. I loved to type away on the old black typewriter. It was the kind that had ink on a ribbon and you had to push the keys down so far that you built very nice muscles in your fingers. It didn’t work from any electrical energy. It was all done by manpower. Those lovingly typed up recipes were mixed in with Mom’s handwritten index cards and lots of recipes cut out of newspapers. I found a pepper enchilada recipe that sounded good, but there was not a recipe for rhubarb sauce.

I pulled down the large green cookbook from the top shelf of the pantry in the kitchen. The Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, © 1942-1946, informed me that rhubarb is a vegetable even though it is usually served as a fruit. I always wondered! Many pages are devoted to rhubarb, but page 254 explains how to make spiced rhubarb, stewed rhubarb, baked rhubarb and rhubarb sauce. My own Betty Crocker Cookbook doesn’t even have that many options! The rhubarb sauce from Mom’s book called for lots of water and cornstarch, and I knew that wasn’t right. I decided to try the stewed rhubarb:

  1. Clean and cut 2 pounds of rhubarb in 1-inch lengths. Place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and 2/3 cup of sugar.
  2. Cover and simmer over low heat 12 to 15 minutes or until tender but not mushy.
    Makes about 3 cups.

I cooked it a little too long, and it looks a little mushy. It tasted okay but not as good as Mom’s. I’ll always wonder if this is the right recipe, or did she just make it up on the way every time even though it always tasted the same. Now, for the rest of my days, I will be trying to figure out how to make rhubarb sauce that tastes just as good as Mom used to make.

My English Teacher’s “Words” Always Stuck in My Head!

This post is inspired by The Red Dress Club RemembeRED prompt:  “Everyone remembers that first inspiration or mentor in their lives that made them want to be or do something in their lives, whether you actually followed through with it or not. Tell us about that inspiration/mentor. How did they affect or change your life!”

Going into 9th Grade was a big change for me because I was going to be attending a different school.  My plans were to attend the high school in our neighborhood, but just a short time before school started, a  judge ruled that the kids who lived on the 35th Avenue stretch of blocks on the north side of Minneapolis had to attend Jordan Junior High School.  After completing 9th Grade, we could then attend our neighborhood high school.  If I would have lived one block closer to the high school, I would have been allowed to attend Patrick Henry High for 9th Grade.

I had one other friend who I knew from grade school who would attend Jordan with me.  I also knew some neighborhood kids, but we were not close friends like we used to be when we were younger.  I was pretty nervous about going to a new school, and I felt that I would have been more comfortable at the high school.

Looking back, I realize that Jordan is where I met some of my closest friends and where I met one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Hallberg.  I admired Mrs. Hallberg’s soft-spoken ways, her pretty blond hair and petite figure – she could have been one of those actresses who portrayed a mom on television.  We were assigned many writing assignments, and I still treasure my paper where Mrs. Hallberg penned in the corner:  “You write very well.  Keep on improving it and you may be able to make a career of it.”  Her words always stuck in my head.  She was the first person whoever complimented me on my writing.  Mrs. Hallberg did not know that I wrote stories and poems all the time on the multi-colored, pastel notebook paper that was very popular back then.  

Mrs. Hallberg’s words frightened me too.  I did not have enough confidence to be a writer and do things that writers do, like join the school newspaper.  I knew that writers get noticed and complimented and/or rejected and criticized.  Hard things to accept for someone who just wanted to blend in.

Almost 40 years later, I finally gathered enough courage to listen to the words of Mrs. Hallberg.  I am taking writing classes, started this blog, and making writing a priority in my life.  I now know writing is something I just have to do for me. 

Even though I was very upset about the  judge’s ruling back then, attending Jordan turned out to be a good experience for me.  Teachers’ comments can last a lifetime!