Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Ideals Gone Awry (+ perfect rhubarb pickles)

Birdy laughs and says, "I was picturing something different, somehow." She stares into her juice glass. "It didn't help that the whipped cream ran out," she says. "And also that it's floating. It looks kind of like a. . . " She shrugs. "White turd."

"That's funny," I say. "I've never had the experience of something not looking exactly the way I pictured it!" Oh, wait. I don't say that.
Exhibit A.

Exhibit "Have you seen the scrap of New Yorker blow-in card I wrote that funny thing on?"

Exhibit B.

Exhibit "Please don't audit us."

Exhibit C.

Exhibit "Perhaps Leksvik is Swedish for 'abject chaos.'" (Also, what kind of people let their children read The Onion?)

What I need is a poster to represent every mess in our house in a contained and attractive way.
Platonic shoe clutter. . .

+ real shoe clutter = cool, artsy commentary. (Right?)
Just because every piece of paper in the house is damp and wilted, every surface spanning the spectrum between moist and slick, every human red-cheeked and fractious is no reason to suddenly storm around with a garbage bag throwing everything out.

Is it?

Meanwhile, these really are pretty perfect.

So suggestible am I that when a friend posted a Facebook description of his lunch that included the words "rhubarb pickles," my jaw cramped in anticipation of making them 30 seconds later. Which I did. Are you wondering what, exactly, you would do with rhubarb pickles? I understand. Eat them, for one. Put them in a ham sandwich for two. And, for three, like I did yesterday, chop them up and stir them into tuna salad with a whisper of mayo. They are tender and sour, just barely sweet and bursting with flavor, and they would probably be great in some kind of hiply peculiar Rhubarb Pickletini cocktail, if that's your thing. Or, mmmm, with a roast chicken, which is my thing. Or duck! Not that I've ever even once made duck.

Rhubarb Pickles
I adapted a recipe from the very inspiring preserving guide Put 'em Up. Since I only made a single jar, I didn't bother canning them properly. Start to finish, I think these take 5 minutes to make.

3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
5 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Enough rhubarb, sliced 1/2-inch thick, to fill a pint jar (I used 1 fat stalk and 1 skinny one)

Bring everything but the rhubarb to a boil in a small pot over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the rhubarb and bring it just back to a boil. Scoop out the rhubarb and put it in a scrupulously clean pint jar, then pour the hot liquid over it. Eat, share, store in the fridge.


  1. Anonymous10:41 AM

    Brilliant! Our shoes look just like that (we even have the same tiles), paper piles ON what they should be filed IN, and I console myself that if our house looked like a catalog, it would be Really Boring... right?!?
    (Duck is actually really easy, poke the skin all over with a skewer to let the fat out and start it upside down on a rack, over a pan to catch the drips, then turn it halfway through cooking; another pan on the bottom of the oven with water in helps make it crispy).

  2. hannah11:04 AM

    Ha! We have that exact same coffeetable, in the exact same state. We used to leave a cubby open for our cat to sit in (she loved it), and then we had a baby and... well, "lost our will to do things not immediately connected to our survival" is maybe the kindest way to put it. Nice to know we're not alone.

  3. Yummm... pickles. I am kind of worried that I will scare my two year old son off pickles for life, since I am using vinegar on my nipples to try and wean him. It works! (Him: "Nursies are yucky, mommy!" Me: "Yep! Now, would you like to eat some Nutella from the jar with a spoon??") How sad that would be for him though! He does love my homemade sauerkraut, so there is hope, still. I love that book. I have tried nearly every recipe. Have you made the pickled beets with dill? HEAVEN! There is a new version I saw at the library that includes recipes that utilize all the canned goods. Happy summer!

  4. I get it, the clutter that will never be wrangled into permanent submission, the way your own home will never resemble the photo shoots where no actual people actually live (go figure). And even the rhubarb pickles, strange as they sound.

  5. We have a large basket beside the front door for shoes. There are still shoes all around the basket. Sigh.

  6. I am so, so happy someone else's house looks like this. Really, you are my people. XO

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  8. I am so making these. I was at a fancy restaurant last week and had a too-expensive salad that contained rhubarb pickles. I said, "Rhubarb-- I can pickle that." And now I can, because I have the recipe, all the ingredients, and rhubarb begging to be picked in my back yard. Thanks!

  9. I found my way to your blog last night because my four year old son was being extremely charming and trying to get out of my planned fish/quinoa/veggies dinner. In fact, he was sweetly begging for pizza. But the thought of hand-making a pizza in the dead of summer, the oven's flame baking my air conditioning bill along with the crust, and the gigantic flour mess afterward... honestly, I didn't want to make the fish either (too damn lazy), and getting take-out was not going to happen. So a long-forgotten memory of pizza toast made its way to my brain. I googled it. And there, you saved dinner for my boy! Pizza toast. I was a hero of epic proportions.

    This has nothing to do with rhubarb pickles. In fact, I've never eaten rhubarb! But thanks anyway. Your recipes end up in my kitchen on a weekly basis. Maybe I'll give that rhubarb crumble a try, and then the pickles. When you write a cookbook, I'll be first in line!

    Much love,

    1. Charlotte, I'm so glad. Pizza toast saves the day! xoxo

  10. Allyson4:36 PM

    Catherine, I have decided that this is the year I learn to can or (hopefully not) die trying. At this very moment, a UPS truck is heading towards my door with my new Granite Ware canning set. And you are the only person I know, however virtually, who would appreciate my excitement. And now I need that book. Also, I made your hummus the other night because we were blessed with 6 gigantic, perfect, non-pickling cucumbers from our CSA, and hummus just seemed like the next logical step. Now I have to try rhubarb pickles.

  11. Melinda9:14 AM

    I love your pictures. I don't feel so alone.
    Is there anything out there that is like the opposite of Pinterest, with all real life pictures of people's real living spaces, looking...well, real?
    And then we can also post pictures of all our half-done craft projects that languish in the basement for years and years, meant for our children, but then switched to be saved for our grandchildren.

    1. Allyson11:54 PM

      If you find it, let me know. I have a whole bunch of pictures ready to upload. In the mean time, enjoy this: http://www.pinterestfail.com/

  12. Anonymous5:54 PM

    Off topic, but clearly the White House chefs have your crack broccoli recipe.

  13. Anonymous1:47 AM

    This post cracked me up to no end. Somehow taking a picture of the mess makes it more... I don't know, picturesque?

  14. Amy S.8:55 PM

    Love rhubarb...love pickles. I must try this!
    Wondering: how long do I have to wait to eat these? Are they ready immediately or is it more of a "wait a couple weeks and they will be better" kind of thing?

  15. This made me laugh out loud AND I am inspired to make these pickles. You are awesome.