One of my Grandmother’s favorite desserts was rhubarb straight out of the garden sweetened with sugar and thickened with tapioca. Depending upon the season she might make a strawberry-rhubarb or a blackberry rhubarb pie. During my childhood when there was grief in our community, Estella, Oklahoma all of us came together to help. Box dinner and pie auctions were my favorite fund raising events. My dad Bob Cox was an auctioneer and he was often called on to motivate friends and neighbors into giving beyond their comfort zone.
Kitchens filled with wafting aromas of chicken frying and coconut cream pies coming fresh out of the oven. All those goodies were then placed in boxes, sacks and baskets and decorated with frilly ribbons and bows. If he knew that a box came from a celebrated chef he would disclose that driving the price sky high Grandma’s boxes always brought a pretty penny because folks knew there would be a rhubarb creation or a 7 layer orange cake or something of equal mouth watering goodness inside.
Many kids and even some adults have never heard of rhubarb let alone seen it growing in the garden. Today there is little talk about the safety of or the toxic reaction brought on by certain plants. I knew what oxalic acid was by the time I was allowed to go to the garden alone to cut the rhubarb. I knew not to put the leaf blade surrounding the stalk into my mouth as it contained that acid and if enough of it was ingested could bring on convulsions, kidney stones, coma and even sudden death.
Today we teach about traffic, strangers, big dogs and more but I doubt that many children have ever been told don’t eat the rhubarb leaf. What a difference 50 years has made