Saturday, May 25, 2019

"Springtime" on Cape Cod

rhubarb crisp in cast iron pan with lilacs in the background

  No.  No, lady in the fancy SUV checking on the builder's progress of her new summer house overlooking the water in the much fancier part of my neighborhood.  No, it is not summer, yet.  She yelled out her window to me as she drove by while I was enjoying a brief spot of sunshine while on a short walk after work.
"Summer has come!" she bellowed.
I found her enthusiasm and her ignorance to be totally annoying.  I know that it can be exciting to see the sun after approximately thirty strait days of rain in April and that this afternoon the temperature has finally hit 65 degrees and it is an incredibly gorgeous day but this is only the second week in May... on Cape Cod.  Don't get too excited.
  The summer solstice marking the first day of summer is more than a month away.  And, as I just said, we are on Cape Cod. Anyone who has lived here for at least one or two spring seasons knows absolutely for sure that "there is no spring on the Cape."
  My father coined the phrase while working most of his adult life outside in all types of weather, repairing poles and electrical wires, dealing with wind, rain, snow and hot sunny days with barely a breeze.  A bitter cold day in February never seemed to bother him that much but rainy, raw days in late March, April and even late into May sends a chill into his bones. Still now, when he goes shell fishing, a most enjoyable pursuit in his retirement, he only selects the best days to go, often abandoning many of the miserable springtime days to working on a project under the cover and warmth in his workshop.
  Every parent of a baseball or lacrosse player knows of  the bone chilling temperatures, the wet dampness, the mist that seems like nothing at first, then ends up drenching all spectators and players by the end of the game.  They know of never really getting warm again after the sun dips behind the trees and the game is finally called.  They all rush to their cars to blast the heater on frozen hands and feet.  This is why I keep my winter coat in my car along with multiple heavy blankets, umbrellas, hats and gloves. Pity the poor mother who just got a pedicure in the early afternoon while the sun felt so warm and decided to wear flip-flops to the game, her feet now frozen and blue.  This is why heavy socks and big ugly rain boots is my main fashion statement during baseball season.
  I watch impatiently for seedlings to grow in my tiny garden and cross my fingers that there will be no late frosts once I decide to go for it and plant my herbs outside.  At his moment of the fancy lady's pronouncement,  the daffodils have barely gone by and the lilacs are still tight buds, they have yet to fully open and scent the air.  So, no, lady with the ridiculously large new house that will block everyone else's view of the ocean, I disagree with your blissfully silly remark but I understand your exuberance.  Yes, this afternoon of glorious sunshine is to be celebrated but don't pack your winter clothes away.  Make sure your umbrella, hat and gloves are at the ready and for heaven's sake don't wear sandals after 4:00 pm if you plan to attend any early evening outdoor sports event.  This is "springtime" on the Cape and I am sure Mother Nature is not done kicking our asses-just yet.

  Rhubarb is one of the only native fresh produce that grows in early springtime on Cape Cod.  It's bright, tart taste mixed with sugar makes a sweet and sour dessert that is delightful when topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Rhubarb Crisp
(serves 6)

6 cups chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/8 teaspoon salt

  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  Mix together rhubarb, granulated sugar, ginger and nutmeg.  Mix the cornstarch and orange juice to make a slurry and pour over the rhubarb.  Mix to combine.  Pour rhubarb mixture into an 8"x 8" baking dish or an 8" cast iron pan.
 Mix butter, brown sugar, flour, rolled oats and salt.  Cut butter into mixture using 2 knives or break off butter pieces with your hands until mixture is in crumbles.  Spread over fruit.  Bake in oven for 50-60 minutes until top begins to brown and fruit juices are bubbling along the edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.  Can be served hot or at room temperature with ice cream, whipped cream or straight out of the pan by the spoonful.