Finding Community in Food Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Finding community in food all started with rhubarb. September’s Full Moon came with intentions of spending more time in solitude. With the cooler weather, I wrote that I’d run more. One day, I found myself running past a bucket of rhubarb. The home that shared their vegetables was the same place that invited the neighborhood to gather outside and listen to live music during the pandemic. Needless to say, I was in good hands, and harvest, here. 

I wasn’t sure if the rhubarb was good though. You see, rhubarb has this beautiful ruby red color to it. I remembered that color from my childhood, when the ladies of my mom’s beauty shop would bring fresh rhubarb from their gardens. I guess finding community in food has been present in my life since the days of getting my cheeks pinched by old European women.

Shrugging it off, I took some firm stalks, went to the cookbook’s and ultimately found out that the green color was just a variety, and indeed was more than fine to eat. 

Not a week later, I was spending a little time with a special friend of mine. You ever meet someone in life and they just have a hold on you? The person that tests your boundaries, keeps you young, makes you laugh, but stresses you the hell out? The person that you have immediate and unconditional love for? 

Yeah, so that kiddo was in town. We walked to the library, I snagged a novel, and with her encouragement, picked up the all too big to carry “Baking Illustrated”.  (Side note – I don’t think libraries can be upset if you get their cookbooks dirty, right?).

Before heading to a friend’s, I left a surprise box of cookies from a Chicago bakery on my front porch for a friend who was having a bit of a shit day. Soon my Saturday turned to night and I’m blessed with another opportunity to connect over food. Bianca and her mom invited me over for a traditional Brazilian dinner. Over food, I found joy in the new dish of farofa, and new life of baby Tommy.

Night turns to morning, and the experiences I’ve collected in this world, my neighbor’s rhubarb and Cook’s Illustrated all convene in my kitchen. My intentions of spending time in solitude were in full fruition as I listened to a jazzy playlist, and lived my best life – making homemade pie crust and nerd-ing out on the science of why I should cook down the rhubarb and use arrowroot to wick away moisture. 

The pie turned out great, obviously. Baking is absolutely a science, and I’m a pretty logically brained person. However, baking is also love, and no amount of science can make food taste as good as love does. I shared my first slice with the neighbor I just met in the alley. Tyrone was out there selling a vintage sewing machine and a pretty groovy deep purple footrest, that now lives in my basement. I walked a quarter of the pie to the home I got the rhubarb from. I learned that there’s some grieving going on under this roof and I can only hope that my pie brought just a little bit of comfort to their days. My landlord gets a piece, topped with some vanilla bean ice cream. And of course, you best believe I enjoyed the hell out of this strawberry rhubarb pie that I made with my hands and heart. Self-love is key.

Food has so much more to offer than what diet culture force feeds you. It pains me that the health and beauty obsessed industry is robbing people of the community, kindness and joy that exists in food. 

I know that this world has made food hard. It can be particularly difficult when it functions as your coping mechanism for deeper pain. It’s certainly not easy when you’ve got diet culture and Karen’s talking about how “bad sugar is” wherever you go. I’m here to tell you that not everything you hear is true and that love lives in the middle.

So maybe, just maybe, you can practice a little bit of kindness. Whether that kindness is for yourself, or others – I sincerely hope you can share a bit of it through the magnificence of food 🙂 

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