Suddenly Adulthood: Rhubarb Crisp with Rosemary

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

-Rhubarb is never sudden.-

I recently had the terrifying realization that at some point in the past ten years I had become an adult.

Life hadn't sent someone to my home with a bouquet of flower and a handshake congratulating me into the secret world of adulthood. There was no card. No special announcement. We have sweet sixteens and quinceanera to celebrate our teens. First birthday parties are a must for any child, though they don't remember it and most of that cake will end up everywhere except the child's mouth. When women are close to term we have bridal showers where the knocked up is floated on a lily pad and worshiped by her friends before the ritual ooh'ing of the gifts takes place.

Yet, we have no pinpoint for being an adult. It just, apparently, happens.

What's scary is the disillusionment you have about adulthood when you're young and tottering about. As a kid I held the view that my parents just knew everything there was to know about the world via a handbook for adults. They knew what was right and what was wrong. They had lived life and their advice was golden and appreciated. When you had problems your parents are the ones you ran to who instinctively knew what the solution was whether it was how to solve your math homework, what clouds were made of, how to spell the letter "B," or whether Jesus or George Washington founded America (my concepts of time and letters were rather loose at the age of two). Your parents knew how to raise a kid and do it well because adults just DO.

-Bill Watterson, what can't you teach us?-

Horror of horrors when one day you realize they were just making it up as they went along. Seriously! Your parents probably almost killed you a dozen times over because they were just guessing! No book, no class, no anything. They had sex one night and you were a result that they had to instruct through life.

In California you have to take a class, pass a written exam, have 100 logged practice hours, possess a proper state identification, and pass a driving test to get a driver's license but you can go start having a kid right now. When it gets here you are officially responsible for the healthy mental, emotional, and physical development of a helpless human being. There is no preparation for it. It's just your inherent right, and God help you if you screw it up.

Think about it. How messed up is that?

-Pretty damn messed up, actually.-

Adulthood doesn't slam into you like a freight train, either. Rather, adulthood is an assassin, slowly, stealthily stabbing you with the utmost precision over and over. A shiv to the wallet and you now have electric bills and a Netflix account. Needles in the eyes and - BAM! - you need glasses. Soon you're bleeding out in the street gripping onto your library card and wondering how the hell you have a mortgage when it seems that only a few days ago you were listening to music with friends during your last day of summer vacation.

Congrats, you are, apparently, somehow, an adult. You realize there is no book or great secret to it all. You're just bumbling along only now you have a gym membership because you don't have the metabolism of a five year old whose every prerogative involves running around somewhere chasing an imaginary hamster. You get a punch card for your oil changes because the tenth one is free and that is an incentive worth pursuing because that thirty dollars could go towards paying off student loans or buying a nice bottle of wine for dinner. You have responsibilities and no real idea half of the time of how to really go about them.

- Only one punch away from the oil change. Yes!-

So the only thing you can do is make the best of it.

However, adulthood comes with perks. Rated-R movies! Paychecks! Bourbon is a nifty bonus. Even better, you get to do whatever the hell you want in the kitchen.

I never got to have rhubarb growing up. My parents didn't like it, so they never bought it. It was only as an adult I finally picked up those jaunty red stalks and discovered their flavor. My first bite of it was raw. It was as tart as rejection and it nearly made me weep. The farmer who gave it to me laughed and took pity as I attempted to swallow the sour, flossy fibers in my heroic attempt at propriety. He charmingly assured me that it was best to usually cook it in order to mollify the slapping flavor. However, he produced a jar of honey and dipped a small, baby stalk of it into the honey and encouraged me to taste. "This," he assured, "is the exception."

I took a bite and it was floral and candy sweet, the sour was beaten back, mellowed by the humble acidity of the dark wild honey. Since then I can't help but play with rhubarb whenever I see it. I'm an enamored school girl who blushes back at rhubarb. I purchase it every chance I get and always give it my full attention.

My right as an adult, I guess.

-Also the right to swear, drink, and make bad decisions for the fun of it.-

This crumble is simple. Rhubarb is the star here. A few strawberries are cast as extras to help make it shine. Just enough sugar tempers its almost rudely sour assault. Rosemary and lemon - a stellar combination when it comes to rhubarb - give it a support and depth and make those an almost certainly adult dessert.

I suppose you could give some to kids if you want. But I wouldn't. Something for them to look forward to when they suddenly realize they're adults, too.

On a complete tangent, I want to bring a little personal something to note. My Blood & Chocolate Pudding post was nominated for Best Culinary Essay in Saveur's 2011 Best Food Blog Awards. I'm truly thankful for everyone who nominated me. You can vote here. However, I ask one thing when and if you do vote: I am honored to be grouped with an amazing bunch of writers, and so I encourage you to read every essay and then vote for your favorite. Give your vote to the best essay!

Rhubarb Crumble with Rosemary & Lemon

For the Crumble Topping
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and cut with a pastry cutter or two forks, or use your hands to pinch the butter with the other ingredients. Cut or pinch until the butter is all the size of small peas. Chill.

For the Filling
2 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1/3 cup strawberries, chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter a medium-sized baking dish and pour in the the rhubarb mixture. Level it out with a spoon. Spoon on top the crumble mixture and spread out evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top has browned a bit and the juices bubbles up the sides. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve.


  1. "Adulthood doesn't slam into you like a freight train, either. Rather, adulthood is an assassin, slowly, stealthily stabbing you with the utmost precision over and over."

    I love it. I think I'll be adding that to my list of favorite quotes on facebook. :)

  2. I LOVE that you tied Calvin and Hobbes into this. Haven't thought about that amazing comic strip in a while. And congrats on the nomination!! It's a great essay that I feel very fortunate to be alongside!

  3. Brilliant post and recipe. Rosemary is my favorite grown-up flavor; I can't wait to make this rhubarb crumble!

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this post!!!

  5. Ah never fear the adulthood assassin isn't done with you yet. My favorite are the moments when something new happens at my house: like my tree falling onto my neighbor's house in a storm. Step one: Call mom and ask what to do! Young adulthood is an interesting time, those younger than you seek out your advice and yet I am always turning to someone older to get theirs. Adulthood is a sliding scale and the moment it finally hits is different for all of us or I am sure there would be a party, or at least a funeral for your childhood! Great post I really enjoyed it!

  6. That looks so yum I may have to rush right out and buy some rhubarb. I do have one tiny crown and I am being very strong and not picking from it so it can grow, but it's hard :-).

  7. S: Glad that you like it. ;)

    Amelia: I love C&H, too. It's just so damn clever. And best of luck to us all!!! =D

    emdashofsalt, Deserea, and FirstTime: Thank you. ;)

    String: Yeah, I have some growing in my yard, but it is super tiny.

  8. You made me smile so much with this post. And the flavour combinations in the crumble sound delicious. My parents always had rhubarb (rhewbob as we tended to pronounce it in South Wales!) at the bottom of the garden but apart from the pretty colour combination in the stalks it never inspired me as a child, and hasn't since. But I think you might have converted me now.

  9. So many new tastes to try! I was toying with the idea of rhubarb and thyme, but now I'm adding rosemary to the list, along with it raw dipped in honey. Sometimes being a grown-up is nice because I can declare dinner rhubarb night and that's that.

  10. Only hours after reading this post, a colleague of mine was checking details for a barbecue later this week, and he asked me, 'You're the one with offspring?' and then said I looked old enough to have children. Adulthood, when did this happen?

    My roommate and I made this crumble last night for a dinner party. She's British, so of course we had to serve it with custard. It was amazing. I'll definitely be making this again -- it's a good thing our garden has lots of rhubarb!

  11. A wonderful post -- great subject and so very well written. This could be a Saveur candidate as well. (I've never been a rhubarb fan but your description has convinced me, one seasoned adult, that maybe I should try it again.)

  12. Chera: I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Lucky that you can grow it. It's hard to do here in CA.

    Rosemary: Thank you!

  13. mmmm, rhubarb. I loved this post. My mother indoctrinated us to it early with a giant patch in the garden that we always had to weed. I think my favorite way she served it was how we had it for breakfast. She would save a portion of the stewed mixture and chill it. We'd get very small servings in stoneware juice cups to go with our cereal the next morning. By that time, it was quite sweet and delicious.
    Congrats on the nomination! It's well deserved.

  14. Anne: Thank you! Also, I am jealous you grew up with this. I wish I had. =D

  15. Calvin and Hobbes + Rhubarb = <3

  16. Think my favorite part of being an adult is the whole doing whatever you want in the kitchen thing. :) I too love rhubarb, but have never thought of pairing rosemary with it. Can't wait to give it a try.

  17. It's absolutely terrifying that almost anyone can just have a child--no questions asked.
    And there are still days where I am shocked that I am actually an adult--other days I don't quite believe it. But bourbon is a pretty damn great perk to adulthood! I think this crisp is another.

  18. Adult-hood is totally underrated, truly. Love this post ... the photos, recipe, and most importantly the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon!

  19. Wild! I've never thought of rosemary and rhubard. A great way to usher one's self into adulthood. Thanks for the recipe.

  20. mmmm...I picked up some rhubarb at the market the other day....not sure I am ready for the rosemary but the crisp sounds lovely! That Calvin and Hobbes cartoon fits the bill to a T! I did not receive any notification of adult just happened one day....crap! (should I find it insulting that the word verification just below as I type says "droopage"....)

  21. MMmm, rhubarb. Young stalks, freshly picked, combined with fresh halved strawberries and a bit of honey and baked til tender. This is one of the best bits of spring. Rhubarb and rosemary sounds very interesting. I look forward to trying this crisp.

    I was amused by your confusing bridal and baby showers. When I was young a bride rarely admitted it if she was pregnant. Currently the shower types are often combined.

  22. So I finally got my hand on some rhubarb, and I wanted to let you know that this post was the inspiration for my latest recipe/post. I even added a shout out to you, If you don't mind (not that it matters with my feeble traffic anyway! :p) Anyway, Thanks for the inspiration and keep up the awesome work! As if you couldn't tell; love love love your recipes. :)

  23. Your posts are always so inspiring to me! I wish I had 100 extra hours a week to cook all your food. And I just love the sophistication of pairing savory flavors with classic sweets just to mix things up (and be grown ups).
    P.S. We have the same flatware as you, with the circles. Love it!

  24. Just thought I would let you know that I loved the filling of this crumble so much I turned it into a jam! :)


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