Cooking with Rhubarb

In Season, Recipes, Seasonal Foods, Spring
on June 8, 2008
Mark Boughton

Our favorite rhubarb story happened years ago with the small jar of homemade jam we gave to Julia Child as a house gift.

It was in the spring, at the peak of the New England rhubarb season, and we were invited to Julia’s house in Cambridge for a party celebrating the publication of a cookbook written by one of her friends. When the invitation arrived, we thought it might have been a mistake. We were low on the foodie chain but thrilled at the chance to meet Julia and her husband, Paul, and see the kitchen we had read so much about. There was the big Garland stove where Julia made her famous coq au vin and the pantry pegboard where Paul traced spaces for Julia’s utensils so everything was put back where it belonged.

As we recall, when we gave Julia the jam, she hesitated a moment before thanking us in her famous chirpy voice. Now that we think of it, we might have said more about “rhubarb” and less about “jam” because she responded that she didn’t think there was space in the refrigerator for fresh rhubarb. But jam she could deal with and asked us to find a spot in the crowded fridge. We like to imagine Julia opening the jar and putting rhubarb jam on her toast and Paul spooning it over ice cream, but are just plain happy with the idea that like us, Julia and Paul might have loved anything rhubarb.

—By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.