There have been rare sightings of fresh rhubarb in the tri-state area. Repeated calls to my congenial rhubarb supplier, Mike-in-Produce, have proven unsuccessful. “I’m sorry, but it’s unavailable, “ Mike insists. The more he insists, the more I implore. “That’s not possible- can you pleeease check another location?” Mike hits the keyboard of his computer with short, staccato strokes. “Unavailable. Out of stock. Unavailable. I can’t order it because the website tells me it’s unavailable.” Demoralized, I tell him I’ll try again next week but Mike is already gone, replaced by irritating elevator music punctuated by an endless loop of organic grocery specials. Begrudgingly, I paw through the depths of my freezer, emancipating the very last bags of rhubarb. Each bag is inscribed with a date scribbled in Sharpie that reads, Pandemic ’20.
Chipping away at the faded pink and green icecap with an OXO meat tenderizer, exactly three quarters of a pound of rhubarb overfill a fine mesh strainer. The ice crystals are stubborn, clinging to the frozen rhubarb like barnacles on the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.. Waiting for the ice to thaw and the oven to heat, I rummage through the pantry, assembling ingredients for a crumb topping. The Quaker Oats man relinquishes barely one cup of old-fashioned cereal. Hoisting my heaviest cast iron skillet from the bottom of the cabinet to the countertop, the oven beeps slightly off key, indicating it’s ready for business. A simple buttermilk cake batter is quick to mix and sturdy enough to support the still-frozen pie plant. The crumb topping is a little too generous for the batter, bordering on excessive.
Recently fixated by the BBC television series, Great British Menu, I can’t stop thinking about the rhubarb and custard pudding prepared by Edinburgh Chef of the Year, Tony Singh. Singh’s fresh rhubarb pudding, made with locally sourced rhubarb, is served with a custard sauce that teeters on crème brulee. The chef introduces viewers to the chickens responsible for the egg rich custard sauce, as well as the farmer who grows a steady supply of exquisite rhubarb. My oven timer beeps, interrupting my Great British Menu reverie. I’ll wait a few days before trying Mike-in-Produce. This week’s ‘unavailable’ might just be next week’s rhubarb windfall.
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Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm