Rhubarb1If you’ve read my blog entry “Getting Dirty” you know I’ve been inspired to become more agriculturally astute. My latest lesson was about rhubarb. I’d never cooked with it and frankly, had no desire. Then my kids and I had the experience of plucking it straight from the field and learning that as an early spring crop, it’s loaded with nutrients (vitamins A & C, potassium and calcium) that we need after our long, cold northeastern winters.
Rhubarb2After tossing the toxic leaves on top of the compost heap, and gathering up the long red stalks, I asked what to do with them. Do I peel the long strings off? Nope. It turns out that after a wash, all to do is chop into 1/2 inch, ready to cook pieces.

Is it a fruit or a vegetable? I asked. Not finding that answer in the field, I turned to Wikipedia, where I learned that rhubarb was considered a vegetable in the U.S. up until 1947. Then a New York court decided that becasue it was used more like a fruit (pies and jams), it should be deemed a fruit, and thus taxed like a fruit (lower than veggies I assume).

Armed with more “Dirty Life” knowledge, I was ready to bake and found a recipe for a Strawberry-Rhubarb-Crumb Pie that truly couldn’t be easier or more delicious. So if you bump into rhubarb at the grocery store or farmer’s market, don’t run the other way! I’ve now made this pie four times! Not only are my kids eating it for after school snack and dessert, they’re having it for breakfast, too!
Rhubarb3I buy ready-made frozen pie shells (I don’t eat wheat, so I substitute gluten free pie shells and flour in my pies). For the crumble, use cold butter. If you have one of these tools it makes cutting in butter really easy. Otherwise use a fork and your hands!

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’re a hero!




  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cold butter


  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla; mix well. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into pastry shell.
  2. For topping, combine flour, brown sugar and oats in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

Getting Dirty


On a recent morning visit with my friend Eleanor, I sat on the loveseat in front of her warm woodstove and picked up a book from the coffee table. The cover was a photo of a woman in jeans and clogs leaning against hay bales in the loft of a big red barn.  The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball, I read. “I’m only half way through, but I think you’ll love that book,” Eleanor said.

She went on to tell me the premise. (Eleanor is from Tennessee, so feel free to hear the words in a delectable southern accent.)  The author was a stylish Manhattan journalist writing an article on the growing local food movement. She ventured to Pennsylvania to interview a hunky farmer running a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and on her first day ended up helping him slaughter a pig in her white designer blouse.  Before you know it, she’d fallen in love with the man and his livelihood, trading in her city life for life on the farm.

Eleanor read me one of her favorite passages about the author’s visit to her parent’s suburban home for Thanksgiving. As Eleanor read (don’t forget the accent) I closed my eyes and pictured the entire scene unfolding in my parent’s very clean, very white kitchen.

“We arrived loaded with food. I was full of the zeal of the newly converted, eager to show off the  gorgeous vegetables my boyfriend had grown… Mark had helped his Amish friend slaughter turkeys that  week, and he’d brought us one… I’d forgotten how very clean my mother’s world is until we walked in  with those boxes, which were smudged with field dirt, a few limp leaves clinging to their bottoms. It appeared we would contaminate any surface we put them on, so Dad directed Mark to the garage, and  my mother asked me quietly if I was sure it was safe to eat the turkey, which was wrapped in a drippy  white shopping bag, its headless neck sticking out obscenely.”

I couldn’t wait to read it, but Eleanor needed a couple of days to finish. So I went out that afternoon and bought a copy of my own.

I could fill the page with my favorite passages, but I won’t. I will say though, when I finished that book (after two days in which I occasionally forced myself to set it down), I was looking at the world through new eyes.  Kristin Kimball’s love for Mark, farming and food were contagious. For the first time in my life, I thought about the rich soil hidden beneath our grass covered lawn and fantasized about a vegetable garden. Her descriptions of the beautifully nourishing meals they created were palpable on my own tongue, and renewed my love and appreciation for the foods we are so blessed to eat. I joined our local CSA and ordered ¼ of a locally raised pig (which was the best bacon we’ve ever had). We trimmed our apple trees in hopes of pressing cider this fall, we’re planting raspberry and blueberry bushes this summer and plan to tap our Maple trees for syrup next spring. We’ve even talked a bit about raising bees and chickens (separately, of course).

While most of my changes are newly instituted or future possibilities, Eleanor and her family have been walking that walk for some time now. They drink milk from their cow, Clover, eat eggs from their chickens (or the ladiesas Eleanor calls them) and harvest veggies and fruits from their extensive gardens.  In fact, I just got off the phone with Eleanor who reported that their evening meal consisted of their first asparagus of spring and a frittata that was bright yellow because the chickens are free ranging on the dandelions in their pasture. After hanging up, my mouth was watering, and I made a little wish that maybe someday, if I’m lucky, my life can be just as dirty as hers.

Mom Memories


As Mother’s Day approaches, I’ve been thinking about my role as Mom and wondering what childhood memories will really stand out for my kids as they grow older.

I assume it would be those really extraordinary times, the ones that take lots of planning and big effort…

The trips into Boston to the Museum of Science, the Aquarium, Faneuil Hall, Fenway Park… that Mother’s Day when we all dressed up and went to the Museum of Fine Arts and then that pricey South End restaurant…

All those holidays where I shopped, cooked, baked and decorated to make it all just perfect and special and unforgettable…

Or the birthday parties… the one when Andie invited every single kid in her class and quite a few from Tucker’s, the bowling alleys, the moonwalks, the gigantic cakes…

Or the vacations we saved for, the gifts, the fancy outfits, the expensive restaurants…

I brought up some of those special occasions with the kids the other day and was met with mostly blank stares. After jogging their memories with key details about each event, they both said variations of Yeah, I kind of remember that, offering me sympathy pats on the shoulder and saying That was fun, Mom.

So, I started thinking back on what I remember most from my own childhood. I closed my eyes and allowed memories to wash over me… appreciation

Sitting on our front flagstone steps next to my mother’s tanned legs while she flipped through that day’s mail and turned the pages of the evening newspaper. 

Mom and I stretched out on the camel back sofa in our den drinking rainbow sherbet-ginger ale floats, watching the 1970’s game show To Tell the Truth. 

A Friday night, I was really young, but we stayed up late and ate a steak dinner with garlic bread and sat around the table so long that the mushroom shaped candle burned right down to a pile of wax. 

Mom’s pink and white striped collapsible lounge chair, the kind that made the click, click, click noise when it was opened or folded up, and the smell of her Hawaiian tanning oil floating in the air.

My backyard birthday party when Mom joined in the relay race and had to sit on a big balloon to make it pop…

As memories continued to flood in, I couldn’t help but notice just how ordinary they all seemed. They were just everyday moments I spent hanging out with Mom.

And then I got it; maybe it’s not about creating memories, it’s about just being with my children and allowing memories to happen.

So in honor of my mom and just in case the kids want a delightful memory to store away for someday, I made root beer floats and we all curled up on the couch to watch Wheel of Fortune. Can’t blame me for trying.
momHappy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Thanks for the memories.

By the way, if you’re looking for a wonderful Mother’s Day gift, check out my friend Katrina Kenison’s book The Gift of an Ordinary Day. She writes so beautifully about her young boys growing into adolescence and beyond, and her longing to capture those wonderfully ordinary, everyday moments.