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Give me rhubarb…

I have a thing about rhubarb pie.

It’s deep-seeded, to be sure, since I haven’t had a bite of that particular pastry since I was a child. My paternal grandmother made them. She died when I was ten. [1]

So when the LitForum‘s Writer’s Exercise [2] for March was to “write a scene in which the emphasis is on the consumption of food. Make use of the senses of taste and smell. Complement those senses by also drawing on sight, feel and mood. The MC [3] in this scene has stopped whatever he/she has been doing before and is pausing for a moment,” I knew immediately mine would be about rhubarb pie. 

Turns out, Rose likes that particular pie, too. Perhaps we will both learn to bake one together. [4]

Wheat thrashing was an annual affair that involved the entire community. Farmers worked together to get one farmer’s crops in, then moved to the next farm and started all over again. It was hot, dusty work and, at the end of each day, there were twenty or thirty dirty, hungry men.

Feeding them was the job of the wives.

She’d been here at the Logan’s farm since early morning, along with all the other wives from the area, cooking pies and cakes, hams and chickens, vegetables of every variety, all in preparation for this, the evening feast, a spread that said good job and relax to the men that had been hard at it since daybreak.

And now that they were finished, it was the wives’ turn to sit and relax. And enjoy what was left of the meal, before their work began anew with the clearing and washing.

She had never been so tired… or so hungry.

She took a bite, letting her tongue savor the contrast between the light, crisp, fried breading on the chicken and the moist, juicy meat below. The food was… well, delicious was an understatement. And a stark contrast to her cooking, where the same fried coating would have been burnt and acrid and a perfect complement to the chewy, dry meat it enshrouded.

There were other delectable goodies on the table: mashed potatoes with a heavenly white gravy, thick and peppery, not a single lump to be found—silk on a cloud; spicy sweet pickles made from watermelon rinds, now nearly as transparent as the zesty brine that suspended them; and the creme de la creme, Minnie Logan’s rhubarb pie. Just looking at it made her mouth water. 

She forked into her mouth a small bit of chicken, potatoes, and gravy, topped with a sliver of pickle and let the flavors dance over her tongue. Surely it was anathema to swallow such savory perfection, so she followed the bite quickly with a forkful of pie so her mouth wouldn’t learn of her deceit. 

Dear Lord, just the smell of the golden crust and warm fruit as it neared her mouth gave her a sense of sweet expectation. But the burst of tart when it actually hit her tongue flooded the senses. The crust, so light, so flaky, melted into the tang of chunky rhubarb, soft like cooked apples but with a brisk bite. Her eyes watered, her mouth puckered, and for a moment she thought the pie too sharp. But then the honeyed, syrupy filling registered, mitigating the tart to a racy zing that begged for more.

Poor Harold. He deserved exquisite larder like this everyday. Not the over-cooked, bland or burnt fare she regularly produced. Not that he ever complained. But she had watched him eat his portion tonight with the men; had seen the angelic glow that delicious food put on his face.

She took another bite. Yes, not even manna straight from heaven could be so divine.

She would have to ask Minnie Logan to teach her to cook. Even though the woman hated her.

Sources and Notes

  1. That was mmmph years ago. Well… a lot… a lot of years ago.
  2. Every month I try to participate in a writing exercise. Different challenges are issued, each focusing on a different writing skill. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments below; the critique criteria for this particular exercise includes:
    • How well were the senses ‘taste and smell’ utilized in the scene?
    • Do you feel the scene keeps moving the story along or does it feel stagnant?
    • Did reading the scene make you hungry? [5]
    • Do you feel the eating in the scene was the focus of the scene or was it more an added detail – perhaps used to distract from something else? 
  3. MC = Main Character
  4. Revolutionary Pie is an awesome blog I just stumbled upon that features recipes from the 1800s. Among them, this recipe for Rhubarb pie.
  5. Cut my pie into four pieces; I don’t think I could eat eight. ~Yogi Berra
  6. Featured photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

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