THE BIG CHILL
Groaning under the weight of its contents, the door to my home freezer struggles to close. The top shelf of the freezer is overfilled with savory items, dinner suggestions dictated by the most dire of no-food-in-the-house circumstances. Situated in the corner of the freezer is an automatic ice maker that consistently works on again/off again. At this moment it chooses to add a few cubes to the rarely overfilled bin, for emphasis. A wayward cube bounces from top shelf to bottom, a cavernous vessel for frozen fruit and nuts. Bags of pine nuts and macadamias from abandoned pesto and biscotti adventures are frozen solid, refusing to budge. Forgotten in the corner are a few misshapen popsicles from summers long gone.
“We see how it is,” observes the bag of frozen cranberries, its ragged opening held together with a weary rubber band. “I’ve been showing signs of freezer burn since early January and not a single glance, not the slightest acknowledgement of my cranberry existence.”
Bag of Frozen Cherries pipes in, her tone both frosty and conspiratorial. “Other than tossing us in a rocks glass with some bourbon and bitters, we’re just playing the waiting game. Will she choose to include us in her cherry pie? Only when she grows tired of removing the pits from our fresh counterparts. She’ll rummage around in here, tossing bags helter skelter, until we’re casually thrown on the countertop, ripped open by force, falling victim to the blade of a dull paring knife.” Bag of Frozen Cherries shivers at the thought of it before continuing. “Just you wait; April is the game changer for all of us. Once she gets her hands on some fresh rhubarb, that’s all she’ll think about, morning, noon, and cocktail hour. Trust me. Just follow her instagram feed; all rhubarb, all the time. You think I’m making this stuff up? I know what I’m talking about, Cranberry. And it only gets worse; when rhubarb season begins to draw to a close, she’ll get crazy and start cramming zip-locs of that pie plant in here. There won’t be room to turn around. You’re toast, Cranberry. The only thing you can hope for is maybe one last hurrah in some kind of frozen fruit mash-up or possibly hitching a ride alongside a nice roast chicken. But the odds are you won’t be seeing the inside of a pie plate or the light of an oven any time soon.”
I’m the ‘she’ they’re referring to and everything they say is true. The first spindly stalks of rhubarb, outfitted in stripes of peppermint pink and minty green, with a bouffant of mildly toxic leaves, haunt my waking hours. Rhubarb is my spring light at the end of a long, cold, tunnel of winter. Every year it seems just the slightest bit further from my reach, the elusive harbinger of spring. Rhubarb is the green light at the intersection of melting snow and purple crocus. Rhubarb gives me the go-ahead to swap out turtlenecks for t-shirts, woolen socks for snarky, combed cotton anklets.
I’ve always linked rhubarb with Passover, a holiday that celebrates the “first-fruits of the barley,” meaning the first grain to ripen and be harvested. If ever there was a first fruit of spring, it’s rhubarb. The only wrinkle in the ‘first fruits’ theory is that rhubarb is technically a vegetable. Details.
As observant Jews begin to prepare for Passover by thoroughly removing chametz (anything with traces of flour and yeast) from their home, I will give the kitchen a half-hearted once over. Sure, the box of Kashi Go Lean Crunch should probably be relocated from the bottom shelf of the kitchen cabinet to the out-of-reach top shelf. The cabinet housing Bob, King Arthur, and the Quaker Oats guy should be loosely padlocked. In this particular kitchen however, it might be a good idea to look beyond the pantry and take a gander in the freezer. Not that there’s anything wildly inappropriate in there, save for the dented boxes of Trader Joe’s spring rolls and spanakopita. It might be time however, to emancipate those frostbitten bags of fruit that have been held in the icy clutches of the freezer for far too long. In doing so, I can free up some valuable freezer real estate and make room for the incoming zip-loc bags of pie plant. This might be just the weekend to roast a nice chicken.
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Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm