One of the primary pieces of advice my grandmother imparted on me — besides the fact that she thought I should be a writer, an absurd idea I promptly ignored — was that one should always leave the house looking the best they can. I realize this might sound a little old-fashioned and possibly even oppressive — I Exist As More Than A Decorative Object, thankyouverymuch — but I took it to heart nonetheless because I know she didn’t mean high heels and rollers, but mostly that looking more with it than you might actually feel sometimes can trick you too.
There are a lot of great reasons to make your own soda syrup. You can use real sugar, rather than the HFCS devil that lurks in most bottles. You can make flavors that make you happy, from real seasonal ingredients with complexity and intensity, and you can use up excesses of things in your fridge like, say, the time you assumed strawberries being on sale meant that you were going to eat a few pounds of them before they went bad. You can use the syrup as a foundation for cocktails, because it’s Friday and baby, you’ve earned it, and you can package bottles up as gifts for friends, because you’re just that awesome of a person.
Look, I have no business giving dating advice. Or marital advice. I didn’t, like, scope the scene or learn the rules or think big thoughts about what kind of person would be the right person for me when I walked into a bar 11 years ago and met this guy for a drink. Nevertheless, if you were to try isolate a single trait essential in a life partnership, I think you should look for a person who is pro-whim — that is, encourages you to have whims and pursue them, for better or for worse. Does that sound too abstract? Okay, fine; let me propose instead the Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Bar Test, which should be enlisted as follows. 1. Find a potential mate. 2. Say, “Do I need to good reason to make strawberry-rhubarb pie bars?” 3. If they answer, as mine did on Monday, “Nope. I think they’re always welcome,” you’re probably on the right track. If nothing else, your weekend is about to get tastier.
A few weeks ago, I retold the sad tale of the late rhubarb meringue tart that met its end when it slid off the plate and managed to coat nearly every part of the open fridge I’d intended to put it into with smears of curd, puffs of meringue and crust of crumbs. Rhubarb, although not to blame, and I took a break after that, and it might had continued longer had I not been haunted by an Instagram commenter (hi!) who urged me to try my hand at a rhubarb cream cheese danish. I imagined the tart pink rhubarb against a lemony slick of cheesecake, enveloped in a puff of orange-scented pastry and I could not bear it.
Almost every year, as soon as the weather gets warm, I become obsessed with a simple, single layer cake that can be made in little time and that I promise will be all you need to be welcome at any picnic/barbecue/cook out/pot-luck that summer.
Today I’m conquering some frequently unanswered frequently asked questions.* In short, no, my cookbook isn’t done yet. “But Deb,” I’m sure you’re thinking, “How can it not be done yet? Bloggers always finish their books in 6 to 9 months! And didn’t you start it over a year ago?” At first I thought it was because I had grossly, dramatically and almost hilariously (but in that ha-ha-ow kind of way) underestimated the number of hours I’d need to work a week to get it done. Then I blamed the toddler, depriving his elders of much needed sleep, leaving me bleary eyed and ineffective when I was supposed to be drafting my masterpiece. But neither of them are as true of this: It’s the breakfast section. I can’t put it to rest.
Do you have a favorite pie? I always think of pies falling in two categories, the prom queens, the blue ribbon prize winners, the ones that the president can’t keep out of his thoughts, and the rest of them. In the latter category there are the soggy bottoms, the overly-gelled fillings, the mortarboard crusts, the treacly sweet and those flawlessly latticed, magazine-ready specimen that turn out to have [insert your least favorite pie filling here] under their pretty lids.