Rhubarb Crumble

by Laura on May 6, 2011

The other day I was wondering, Where did April go?  And then I sorted it out.  It’s the calendar. (Cue shrieking music.)  The dreaded calendar.  I don’t know how it got so crowded, but it’s a bit maddening.   I loathe a crowded calendar.  Read mine like a country auctioneer with me: haircut, grooming, dentist, doctor, and vet appointments; prom tux pickup and drop-off; meetings, rosemaling.  Actually, scratch that idea.  The list would take too long.  Just looking at it is making me cringe a little this morning.  If you are the keeper of your house, you may find yourself, like me, wondering how exactly it came to be that you are the person to organize these things, how you became the person who orders the corsages and monitors the milk and sundries, who knows that there are sports forms to be filled in and well doctor visits to be scheduled, prescriptions to be picked up, and closets to be cleaned out, lost library books to be hunted down and returned, and beds to be weeded outside and changed inside.  You may find yourself, like me, scratching your head a bit over this puzzle.  It happened so gradually, so quietly, like nightfall or a creeping ink spill.

Your partner, like mine, may be a perfectly amiable person who would likely be happy to help if he only knew the list, the plates that need to keep spinning, the balls that need to be kept midair.  But he doesn’t somehow.  However innocently, he isn’t aware of these things.  The dog goes to the vet for an annual teeth cleaning?  Who knew!  We need to renew a boathouse membership and register for three sessions of rowing?  And fill out doctor forms for this? Really?  There is a whole book of usernames and passwords for these kinds of online registrations and purchases and scheduling?  What?  We have a file cabinet full of immunization records and past vacation itineraries?

I sometimes think about what it would be like to be another person in this household.  Items in the pantry reappear magically as they are depleted.  There is someone who can answer the question, Where are my fill-in-the-blanks?  Towels are always clean.  Food appears and meals are produced.   Budgets are made and managed, and bills paid, and taxes organized and filed.  Appointments and schedules are announced, no need to think about them, and there are friendly reminders about when and where they are taking place as they approach.  That tagboard you need for your school project is at the ready, and so is your replacement toothbrush.  Even your sock drawer repopulates.  These things pass largely unnoticed.  Entire events happen, albeit small, during daytime working and school hours, and they are unknown, not secrets, but so unimportant as to warrant a quiet around them.  Why would there be a reason to announce that a closet has been sorted and used clothes donated to an organization in Richfield?  Or that any of these small details have been taken care of?  It’s hardly the stuff of conversation.  And the list grows as a family grows and takes on a life of its own.  A silent life.

My good friend Erin tells a story about a friend whose frantic husband came to her repeatedly with questions when she needed a few minutes to herself.  Where is the baby thermometer?  How do you use it?  Things of this nature.  “Pretend I’m dead and figure it out,” she called from the bathroom.  I think about this sometimes when I’m otherwise occupied and one of my beloveds needs something.  It wouldn’t be my style, but thinking about it adds a certain levity to a moment when I am calling quietly on my patience, when I’m wondering why the proverbial call seems to be “Mom!”  and not some other name or title.

My Dear Husband is not a lout.  He mows the lawn and shovels the walk and folds laundry and vacuums and cleans windows, in addition to working long hours.  And my children are equally capable and kind.  They just don’t know about all of the bits and bobs, the invisible list.  And I don’t know quite why or how that happened.  It certainly wasn’t planned, and there was no malice in it, nor martyrdom.  It’s a bit of a mystery, really.  Something to think about over a nice bowl of crumble, perhaps.

My crumble isn’t too far off the usual, but I prefer to increase the ratio of sugar to butter and flour for an extra crisp topping, and I use whole wheat pastry flour, which adds a nuanced softness of flavor, too.  I also barely sweeten the rhubarb so that it’s a tart contrast to the sweet topping and I don’t gum it up with thickeners. Tart against sweet, meltingly tender rhubarb against the crunch of baked sugar and butter and whole wheat pastry flour, hot fruit with cold ice cream, and quick to make, too. What’s not to love?  This rhubarb season, squeeze it into your calendar, woefully crowded or otherwise.

I talked with my Sweet Boy after writing this, about taking on some of these responsibilities.  He was cheerful about the whole thing.  “Of course!” he said.  The next day I suggested he register for the ACT and put some money in his school lunch account.  “What?  I thought you were talking about the future, Mom.”  “I was,” I said.  “Welcome to the future.”


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah May 6, 2011 at 4:28 pm

What a smart kid! And the rhubarb crumble looks to die.

2 Laura May 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Thanks! And, yes, he is…

3 Sheryl May 7, 2011 at 10:06 am

Laura, you captured the role of “mom” so perfectly! Our rhubarb is almost harvest-ready…looks like it’s found its purpose in this recipe!

4 Laura May 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Thank you! I hope you like the crumble.

5 Lizzi May 8, 2011 at 3:16 am

Laura, the day you gave me your home address was perhaps the most foolish day of your life. From that moment on, you need to be constantly on guard, lest a strange girl move in with you unexpectedly (partially because she too would like a self-re-populating sock drawer, but mostly for the rhubarb crumble).

6 Laura May 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

You’re funny, Lizzi. Remember, I have your address, too. And if I succumb to the urge to escape and take my own vacation, it’s your doorstep I will darken. Best keep a ration of the Tim Tams on hand.

7 krisannjacobson May 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

i enjoyed this post so much.
and i really like your new photo.
also, as soon as our rhubarb is ready, i’ll bring some to you.

8 Laura May 11, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Thank you! I would love that more than you can imagine.

9 Leigh Ann May 11, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Well done- what a great post-

10 Laura May 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Thank you!

11 jennythenipper September 5, 2013 at 2:23 pm

OK I’m ready to try your version. My husband loves rhubarb crumble, but I tend to think it is too tart. It seems like I need a ton of sugar to overcome the battery acid tartness of the fruit. I’d never thought of adding the extra sugar to the crumble before. Interesting idea. I will give it a go. though now we are in peach cobbler season, I still have some rhubarb in the freezer.

12 Laura September 5, 2013 at 10:38 pm


Thanks! I hope you enjoy it. You might increase the sugar in the rhubarb just a bit. I prefer it quite tart. Best wishes!

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