When rhubarb begins to appear in the farmers’ markets and produce stalls of my Brooklyn neighborhood, the neatly tied bundles of rosy stalks conjure images of my midwestern grandmother’s long-defunct South Dakota garden. Louise was adept at turning the plant’s tough, acidic stalks into sweet-tart jams and pies that heralded summer. My mother, herself no slouch as a baker, has carried on the tradition; this summer, she sent me the recipe for my grandmother’s rhubarb custard pie.
I miss my mother, who lives in Alaska, and I miss my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago. But as I chopped rhubarb and beat eggs in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen, I felt close to both women. Such is the beauty of a recipe that has traversed thousands of miles and three generations: the simple act of baking a pie can evoke beloved memories of faraway people and places. Or, as the great M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “…our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.”
What is your favorite family recipe?
Mix 1 & 1/2 Cups sugar, 1/4 Cup flour, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, and dash salt.
Add to 3 beaten eggs; beat smooth.
Stir in 4 Cups 1-inch slices rhubarb.
Line 9-inch pie plate with pastry.
Fill with rhubarb mixture.
Dot with 2 Tbsp. butter.
Bake at 400° for 50 minutes.