Penitence and Pie: Director’s Cut


Rhubarb: Serving suggestion. Yummers!

It’s one A.M., I’ve got a bad case of the screaming whats-its, and I’m baking a rhubarb galette.

You may be wondering.

A galette, my fine feathered friends, is in essence a pie (or “pah” if you’re from South Carolina), but not fancy-pants pie.  It’s pie for those of us who can just about shmoosh together whole-wheat flour, butter and water, but who balk at double crusts, crimped edges, cutting decorative steam holes and creating William Morris-like garlands from the scraps.

Nor, come to think of it, will most of us ever tackle that absolutely splendid glaze that Nigella makes from melted quince jelly, or cut paper-thin, perfectly identical apple slices with a mandoline prior to arranging them in a Fibonacci sequence that could conceivably be used to illustrate an advanced physics lecture at MIT.

Au contraire, the unbaked single crust for a galette just lies there, flat and undemanding as a two-dollar floozy (which, if last Saturday’s little escapade is anything to go by, will tell you most of what you need to know); its rough, ragged edges all akimbo, ready to contain its rude and rustic filling with nary a complaint.

And now, since you asked:

A personal history of rhubarb

  •  We grew rhubarb in our garden when I was little. They were great big thick green stems with some bits of pinkish red. My mother would stew it with water and not enough sugar until it was a roiling green-red mass with a slippery, disturbing mouth-feel of pulp. We would eat it, mouths puckering from the astringency, as a bedtime snack.
  • for some reason, I suffered from insomnia as a child.

Fun facts about rhubarb; and why vegans look stressed, despite the generally-held belief that they are working toward the peaceful co-existence of all species.

  • Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, though it’s used for pie filling. In fact, my mother called it “pie plant”. It is old-fashioned; it’s farmhouse cooking.
  • My mother made the pastry for dessert pies, such as rhubarb pie, with LARD.


    Apple tart:  attr.Da Vinci

  • DID YOU KNOW?:   The ingestion of a single, oxalic-acid-laced rhubarb leaf can kill a medium-sized companion animal of average-to-low intelligence,  a.k.a. “Fluffy”.

Rhubarb and religion:  In which the eating of rhubarb is examined as an expression of the Protestant sect.

Rhubarb grows in northern climates, where we are grateful for summer, but for the rest of the year we ENDURE.  This northern quality means that rhubarb pie is, essentially, a Protestant dessert.

Whereas Catholics and other southern idolators mark the end of a meal with dramatic frothy treats like zabaglione or decadent gelato, Protestants have, over the centuries, devised penitential desserts that cast a delectable pall of suffering over the final course.

This gives Protestant desserts, in themselves character tests, an almost Inquisitional function, and leaves every devout Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church-goer or Mennonite secure in the knowledge that, whatever they may choose to feel guilty about today, it need not be – in fact, cannot be – rhubarb pie.

Concluding remarks

Rhubarb purity:  The strawberry schism

” … as we forgive those who strawberry-rhubarb against us …”

Some well-meaning but misguided individuals have had the temerity to mention “strawberry-hyphen-rhubarb”. They say this to me hopefully, as though I’ve forgotten the key ingredient of rhubarb pie. But oh, my fur and whiskers, make no mistake: Rhubarb pie DOES NOT, and never did, contain strawberries, and those unfortunates do not mention this, at least to me, a second time.

Strawberries?  FEH.  Strawberries have no place in a Protestant dessert, and if you think they do, Virginia, you are, as they say, an abomination unto the Lord



¹ “As they say”: Except for Anglicans, who would never mention “the Lord” or “God”, considering this to be in poor taste.