Front Porch: A simple rhubarb dish, a good company recipe for joy

I made a crunchy rhubarb earlier this month.

This isn’t a big deal, of course, but it was. This was the first time since the beginning of the COVID era that I felt the urge to make one. Or enjoy making something special.

I had ideas to do this last year, but the deer decimated rhubarb plants, ate the foliage, and was hopping through the stems. Other than the annoyance of this happening, I wasn’t too upset, as I was only half interested in the project anyway.

I have a new deer control system in place this year, and if it keeps working all summer, I’ll report back on its success. It’s been a losing bid for several years.

But back to the rhubarb–I returned to the wild in the yard with some anticipation, pulled out some stems, prepared the fruit (add some strawberries) and made, if I may say so, a very tasty dessert for the company that came on Sunday night.

Oh… and we started getting friends home for dinner again.

Despite being vaccinated and empowered with whatever is available, we remain cautious about how we treat the world. My husband’s business is a solo process. If COVID hits, work stops in its tracks. He wears a mask everywhere and is still reluctant to go to places where large groups of people gather – therefore, there are no symphonies, weddings or funerals, only eating out (and in off hours, at that time).

I’m immunocompromised, so I still hide in the grocery store, post office, hardware store, or anywhere there are a lot of people together in one place. I allow myself the luxury of lunches with friends, always trying to find uncrowded places and wearing a mask through any crowd that might be at the door, unmasking when seated.

I might be kidding myself about these precautions, but…so far, so good. What I have not overcome yet is the malaise that has accompanied the life changes brought about by the pandemic.

The reason I focus on rhubarb is because it seems like a glimmer of hope, something I’ve been looking forward to doing again. It made me happy. There is so much I do these days just to stay active, but without much joy. Some kind of counterfeiting syndrome until you make it.

What didn’t help with any of this was the division in the land – over politics, social issues, and just the aggravation of human interaction. My political persuasion has taken some hard blows lately, which, of course, only makes the gloom worse.

A good friend in California recently emailed me asking about my condition. And so, I wrote to her again and told her exactly how I was doing and how I had found no hope, at least in my life, for all that I cherished (not to exaggerate or anything). And I clicked “Send”.

I immediately heard. She told me how surprised she was that my letter had made her so good. Please understand the context. She was not happy because of my depression. She said that my words were exactly what she was feeling, and that it was comforting to know that she was not alone in her thoughts.

We talked long on the phone after a few days and realized many people were in the same boat, but were reluctant to say the words out loud. Many of us are fortunate enough to live lives of relative privilege, so it seems ungrateful that we feel the way we do.

Getting past life as we used to live in the age of COVID will take some time. Adjusting my mind to the realities of America that I find hard to identify requires another level of effort. But the human spirit can only fall for so long before it wants to find joy in doing things again.

I’ll start with the delight of fresh, crunchy rhubarb on a summer’s day.

Voices reporter Stephanie Pettit can be reached at [email protected]

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