Me and strawberries are going through the wringer this week. It started with a large, plank-like shortcake with cream cheese, sour cream and a buttered center. It was a dud, an all-caps level DUD. I should have known better than to try a recipe from a dubious source, and also to mess with a perfect thing. Next came a strawberry-striped tweak on my favorite crumb cake, except it didn’t really stripe and when released from the pan, stood briefly on the counter, sighed then slumped wobbily to the side. Filed under: delicious dud hanging out in the freezer, waiting for the next barbecue invitation. Third came a [we’ll talk about it later] which I was attempting for the [that too] and it is all sorts of magically tasty if you can look back the large crater in the middle, as if strawberry filling had recently erupted from within it. Filed under: another delicious disaster and lordy, my freezer is getting full. Recipe four was tasty, but I’m debating whether it’s worth burdening your time to discuss; I will ponder this over my next serving but recipe five, recipe five is the real reason we’re here today.
I hadn’t intended to audition any new rhubarb recipes this year. Between last year’s cobbler and previous seasons’ filled crumb coffee cake, strawberry rhubarb crumble, strawberry rhubarb pie, loaf cake and even compote, I was pretty sure I had the rhubarb terrain well-covered. But then I walked through the Union Square Greenmarket two weeks ago with Adam and we were both lured in by the bundled stalks. Because they’re shiny and pretty and pearly and pink and I cannot speak for Adam but I am incapable of resisting shiny pretty pearly pink things, nor do I wish to.
I never had a Pop-Tart until college. I realize that for some people this may cause a shocked reaction on par with my husband’s the time I told him I’ve never watched Goonies before (or Jacob’s, upon discovering the internet). Obviously I grew up under a rock, right? Thus, given my proximity to concrete-like materials you’d think I have been better prepared for the texture of the one I purchased from the vending machine in the basement of my freshman dorm (not at 4 a.m. or anything, either, nope, not this angel!). But I was not. It was like particle board, but even particle board has a fresher aroma. It took two hands to break off a piece. I choked down my first bite, then chugged some water, convinced bits were stuck in my throat. Don’t you hate that?
From what I read, those of you on the opposite side of the country are reveling in the season’s first artichokes, asparagus and favas. You’re gushing over rhubarb and your new favorite way to cook it. You’re rejoicing over how good in-season strawberries taste when you’ve been deprived of them for the better part of a year.
I confessed some wanderlust a few weeks ago, though “some” is a bit of an understatement. See, parents get paralyzed a bit in the beginning — in the early days, just getting a cup of coffee in the morning is kind of a triumph — thus even when the kid hits a half year old (which once-Wee Jacob did this week, sniffle) and you’ve got a good routine down, you still know you’re not ready to pack everything the three of you will need for one week into suitcases and then willingly relocate to a 180 square foot stateroom for a so-called vacation.
As many of you have figured out, I’ve got a megawatt crush on Southern food. It comes out with a vengeance all summer when I want nothing more than to dry-rub ribs, make corn bread and buttermilk dressing salads, dive headfirst into tomato pie and douse pretty much everything in bourbon then usually goes into a soft hibernation over the winter save a fried chicken or chicken and dumplings run-in or two.
A lot of times, a recipe comes with a story, and if you’re even luckier, it’s a good one. There are dishes that remind you of something your mama used to cook and unforgettable meals at far-flung restaurants that demand recreating in your own kitchen and fresh stuff that looked so pretty at the market, you had to come home and have your way with it.