Dear Patron Saint of Lost Causes:
I've a request. It's a relatively small one, in the scheme of things. Not a major miracle or anything. More of a product development sort of favor.
Here goes: Could you see your way to issuing some sort of Early Error Warning System for sewing hacks? It needn't be big, or even that complicated. I'm sure, what with microprocessors these days, it could be a nice discreet little add-on. Like an app, only for the Bernina. Or a mini-Doppler Radar for the D.I.Y. fiber crowd. Or like those tiny bugs Tom Cruise was always polka-dotting around under tables in Mission Impossible.
See? So small.
Only instead of intercepting secret spy stuff, this would flash or beep or, I don't know, kick you in the shins when you're about to blow it. You're whipping up a pair of pajama pants, say—no buttons, no trim, no pockets, no pattern, just your classic elasticized upside-down V, easy-peasy—and while you're absolutely sure you're stitching together the right seams, you are in fact absolutely wrong. Enter your ingenuity, dear soul, waving red flags or sending small electric shocks.
Doesn't need to be fancy, or even specific. None of this one ringtone for wrong sides together, another for bobbin thread doesn't match the top stitch. Nope. Overkill. Doesn't even need to be loud, since it's almost guaranteed to go off only between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Just a gentle *whoooop!* *whoooop!* to let you know you will soon (now!) (REVERSE!) be going off the rails. To let you know you will regret this later. To remind you that your daughter will remain stubbornly bipedal, no matter how fetching your new potato-sack-posing-as-pajamas-thingy.
If you can't swing that, I suppose we could go with Plan B, although the technical specs are a little fuzzy. I'm probably over-analyzing; implementation's your department. I'll just state, for the record, that this whole third dimension thing is terribly problematic.
Paper doll duds are sooooo much easier to engineer than people clothes, and I think you and I both know why. Outline, scissor, boom: done. Take away curves, bumps and bends, and you take away the need to affix two-plus pieces of fabric together. Which is where it all falls apart, of course. The together-ing.
Together, turns out, has all kinds of interpretations. Even on something as simple as plain p.j.'s. Even when you've done it entirely wrong, once already. Spent fifteen minutes puzzling out how this oversized tube sock might somehow become pants. Seen the error of your ways, spent serious quality time with your seam ripper, cursed those excellent triple-stitched seam ends, and re-stitched the whole botched mess the right way, finally.
Even then, you might mis-gauge the mechanics of together. Even though it seems impossible that a simple V could go sideways. Once, let alone twice. But lo, you have found it, rummaged around in that third dimension for yet another "variation". Sewn the center seams together. Produced straight-jacket pants. Not a tube, anyway. But not exactly practical. Were we all Flat Stanley's, this would not happen.
Also, we could slide under doorways, fly like kites, and travel for the price of one first-class stamp.
I'm just saying. Two dimensions. Consider it.
You could suggest I buff up on my spatial reasoning skills, but you, of all people, should know that's truly a lost cause. We both know I can't navigate my way out of a cardboard box. But have you forgotten that I cannot even build a cardboard box?
Surely you recall the wild discrepancy in my high school assessment scores? The 98th percentile in every last subject area, save that battery where one connects a flattened-out box and its 3-D object? That battery in which I scored 17%, some 8% lower than what random answers would have gotten me? Surely, you don't expect me to actually envision the finished product? Though, reading the instructions might not be too much to ask...
(How I now have a son whose dream afternoon involves turning 8 1/2 x 11" sheets of [flat] paper into all manner of [seriously bumpy] Paper Toy Monsters is beyond me. Some apples don't even land in the same orchard. Good thing, too.)
And another thing, while I have you on the line: Mosquitoes? Humidity? Any wiggle room? Because both were back in spades this week, and I'm just wondering. May is lovely, what with the iris and alliums and whatnot, but the pests and sticky, not so much. Can we negotiate on this one? Tough nuts are your specialty...
Anyway, I'm willing to work on this, really. I've already ripped out the entire second set of errant seams. Only halfway was technically necessary, but whatever. Also, I started a dress for Zoë's doll. And even if neither are finished yet, they will be. Spatially inept I may be, but stubborn and persistent, even more so. I'm the one, after all, who's finally discovered that the lilacs and cherries must make room for what's next. Who's giving this gardening business another go, even going so far as to put in four strawberries. Who's finally discovered, after ten years of dyeing, that egg salad is the quintessential spring meal (Easter eggs! Chives! Parsley! Hello!) I know to give up on truly lost causes (keeping kids clean in spring, keeping dandelions from wish-blowers), but by and large I keep trying. There's hope for me yet.
Not that we're talking egg salad today. It was good, very good, but rhubarb crisp is grand. Yes, another rhubarb thing today. Apologies in advance to the rhubarb loathers; for what it's worth, we were going to talk asparagus. And we will, soon, but I can't get past this crisp.
It's the crisp I mentioned in passing last week. And the same one I wrote up, and was going to direct you to over here. But I seized up at the idea someone might not click through, and might miss something so lovely we've made three times in as many weeks.
It's not lovely to look out, though I hardly need to tell you that. I'm not sure crisp ever is. Fine book, awful cover. What makes this crisp especially fine, in my book, is that it is a rhubarb-raspberry crisp. Rhubarb's no stranger to companion fruits, but strawberries are its standard partner in crime. There's a certain logic to this, as they co-exist for a few weeks, but I'm not a fan, for several reasons. I find strawberries' deep flavor fades in the oven, while their texture goes all strange and floppy. Also, strawberries won't come on for weeks, yet. I can't possibly wait that long for rhubarb crisp.
So years ago, at the suggestion of the Seattle Junior League, I began tipping in a bag of frozen raspberries. I know nothing about the Seattle Junior League, save this, but I'm here to tell you, they are absolute geniuses. Raspberries and rhubarb are Abbott and Costello, flip-flops and summer, salt and caramel: perfect. Raspberries grow richer, deeper, better under fire, melting and concentrating into a jewelled sauce. They round out the rhubarb's rougher edges, bringing sweetness and perfume and intense fruitiness. The garnet color doesn't hurt. Nor does the crispy topping.
Because admit it, we all angle the spoon just a little, to get an extra smidge of addictive crunch. This particular topping is nothing special, just butter, brown sugar, flour and oats. That said, there are details that keep me coming back. The butter is salted, which all sweet things need. The sugar is light brown, for a faint caramel twinge. The oats are left whole, for a bit of nutty edge. And the mixing together's done by hand, as is the scattering. Vital, this. I'm a devoted fan of the pinch-and-clump scatter, the taking of a moment to make pea gravel of my topping. Mostly because I'm a devoted fan of the result, a particularly crisp and caramelized coverlet for my bubbling fruit.
So perhaps I should amend myself. The together-ing matters, I stand by that. But sometimes, it seems, that's where it all succeeds.
I've decided there's no point in dirtying a food processor, here, as the oats should never see a blade. Forming the crisp topping by hand is simpler, better and faster, a matter of minutes. Do aim for roughly 1/4" slices when cutting the rhubarb. Years ago, I got lazy, and my 1/2" slices came out of the oven crunchy as an apple.
For a crisp with juices that run, choose the lesser amount of cornstarch; for a jammier filling, use the full 3 tablespoons. A teaspoon (or two) of dried ginger or cardamom are wonderful additions to the crisp topping.
4 cups rhubarb, sliced ¼” thick
12 ounces raspberries (frozen are fine; no need to defrost)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 – 3 tablespoons cornstarch
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
¾ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
¾ cup oats (old-fashioned)
Freshly whipped cream or ice cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a baking pan, combine all ingredients for fruit filling, tossing briefly with fingers to combine.
For the topping, in a wide bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour and oats. With clean hands, rub warm butter into dry ingredients, picking up handfuls and sliding both between fingers and palms. Continue until no pockets of dry flour remain, and you have an assortment of sandy clumps and loose crumbs, just a few minutes. Top crisp by removing small handfuls of topping, squeezing gently to form large crumbs (peanuts to marbles in size), and scattering over surface of fruit.
Bake 30-40 minutes, until fruit is bubbling around the edges, kitchen is fragrant, and topping is going golden around the edges.
Allow to cool slightly, and serve, warm, with whipped cream or ice cream. Also makes a most excellent breakfast.