May 22, 2013
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Not bad at all, and I plugged in the radio and opened a window and set the volume to LOUD so I could hear it while I worked out in the yard. Which I did, for a good two hours, rain coming down now and then, but not enough to warrant stopping, or rubber boots, or one of those plastic head covers for women that you unfold and unroll and tie under your chin like a bonnet. My grandmother used to have a whole box of those things, and she slipped one in my pocket now and then on rainy days. I never did open one up. Figured they'd make good parachutes in an emergency.
All I could smell while working out there Saturday evening was lilacs. Every year about this time the air fills with the scent of lilacs, which takes me way back to my grandmother's backyard where I spent many a warm day of my childhood. I helped her gather grapes from the arbor for wine, and vegetables from her garden (corn, mostly), and I played in the grass with the black lab named "Penny." Inside her kitchen, we spent hours making lemon shortbread cookies and rhubarb pies and date-filled things. I helped her can vegetables now and then, and prepare fruit for jam. Sometimes I was in charge of the iron skillet full of chicken fat on the stove. And, round this time of year, there was the smell of lilacs, the velvety purple flowers framing one side of the window above the sink.
Carnations are like that for me, too. They bring back the memory of my boyfriend Jerry, back in high school, picking me up for the Prom, trying with some decorum to pin to my dress the monstrous corsage of pink carnations he'd brought for me. The scent was lovely at first, and later on in the evening, quite dizzying. I think of my mother when I smell lilies of the valley, as she surrounded my childhood home with them, and wildflowers remind me of long woodland walks with my dad. And daisies? Well, they bring back a powerful memory, a June day when, after he drowned in a river during a family picnic, we lay my young cousin to rest.
Get on outside, people, and smell the flowers. Breathe 'em in, all you can as you go. Somewhere along the way, years from now, even, you'll smell them again, and they'll bring to mind a memory of something you did today, and perhaps it will be amazing. You just never do know.
The best recipes are simple, and, this time of year, have the quality of being refreshing without making you feel you've a bowl of concrete in your gut when you're finished. This is an old one, best served chilled, and made with rhubarb grown in your own backyard.
Scandinavian Rhubarb Pudding
1½ pounds rhubarb
1½ cups water
½ cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
3 T cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Trim rhubarb and cut into ½ inch slices. Combine with water and sugar and simmer until soft. Stir in vanilla. Blend cornstarch with a bit of cold water to make a smooth, stiff paste, and stir into rhubarb. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened and clear. Pour rhubarb into glass serving dish and chill. When you're ready to serve the pudding, whip the cream until frothy; add sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff. Spread over pudding, and serve.