The last thing Eloise ate the day she died? A piece of rhubarb pie. It was an ordinary day, really, nothing extraordinary to note. She sat at the kitchen at table alone, the sound of the grandfather clock ticking away, taunting her, so many minutes in the day ahead. Or so she thought. The Russian Blue cat she inherited from her granddaughter many years ago sat on the kitchen table, within a short leap of her slice of rhubarb pie. The cat gazed at her with what seemed like concern, but likely hunger. [Though she fed the cat plenty, he seemed to crave food more since Russell died. Fancy Feast soothed his broken heart. Nothing soothed her heart.]
He remained, as he sensed he should. He wouldn’t budge, so she took a big bite of her slice of rhubarb pie. Delicious, as always, Russell’s favorite. A flaky, buttery crust filled with slightly tart and perfectly sweet rhubarb from their garden. A recipe passed down from her mother. [A difficult woman to love. And yet. She was loved.]
“Damn cat! Bringing me a dead mouse at 5 in the morning. Some companion you are! Russell, you should be here!” she hollered into muggy morning air.
[She called to him often. Talked to him in her head. Dreamt of him at night. Occasionally, he did appear to her in the quiet blue-black stillness of night; sleeping, his chest heaving up and down, the sound of his breath lulling her to sleep. Russell had always been enough for her. In sixty-two years of marriage she never entertained the idea of another man. He thought of other women, as men do, yet never sought a thrill. She was enough.]
Eloise stood from the table, opened the front door and stepped into the damp morning air, barefoot. [Unlike her to be barefoot, wet grass between her toes. She loved her slippers, but she was not herself today.]
As she made her way across the yard to her jungly garden, she marveled at how good the dewy grass felt underneath her feet, the warm sun on her back, penetrating her bones. She stared at her garden, the tomatoes heavy on the vines, raspberry bushes growing wildly, engulfing the zucchini and Blackeyed Susans. A few stalks of rhubarb remained, enough for another pie.
And with a moan, she howled “Russell, you should be here!”
[Neighbors thought for sure the old woman was loosing her mind, calling out for a dead man. And when they saw her skitter across the lawn faster than she had moved in years, arms held out, smiling, well they made a quick call to her son. An hour later he would find her, curled up on the summer grass as if asleep, her body turning cold.]
It was the sound of a lawn mower that made Eloise turn. He stood a few yards away: khakis, white t-shirt wet with perspiration, smiling, the lawnmower now at rest. “Russell?” She walked towards him, her pale blue nightgown skimming the damp grass, her ninety-year old body outlined by the sun, visible through the thin cotton. Eloise reached for Russell and he smiled. His damp face, his slight stubble, his dry lips all in her hands once again, the blue eyes she looked into for sixty-two years, again, looking at her.
She felt light-headed, her breath slowed and she fell to her knees.
Eloise lay on her back in the emerald grass, Russell lay on his side right next to her. She stared at the hazy sky, the large elm beginning to sway, the wind mercifully picking up on this oppressive summer day. She understood what was happening and a single tear fell down her cheek. What relief! No more marking of days, minutes too long to bare without him. She would miss a few souls and that damn cat. She thought of the half-eaten pie sitting on the kitchen table and wondered if the cat would eat it. She didn’t care. Ready now, Eloise turned her body to Russell, curled up into space between them and let go.
Rhubarb Strawberry Cherry Crisp
Recipe Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen
2 stalks rhubarb, 1/2 inch slice
2 cups of cherries, pits removed and halved
2 cups strawberries, quartered
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
For the Crisp Topping:
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 stick + 4 tablespoons, chilled, unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
generous pinch of kosher salt
vanilla ice cream for serving
Pre-heat your oven to 375F. Butter a 2 quart baking dish and set aside.
Grab a medium bowl and toss sliced rhubarb with cut cherries and strawberries. Add sugar and cornstarch and mix gently to coat. Next, add the orange juice and stir again. Pour the berries into the prepared baking dish.
Grab another mixing bowl and stir together the flour, oats, sugar and salt. Add the almond extract and butter. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the ingredients are clumpy and resemble wet sand, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Place on the middle rack of your oven and bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is a deep golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Allow the crisp to cool for 15 minutes or so before serving. Serve with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
**The crisp topping can be made a few days ahead. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The fruit should be prepared just before baking. The baked crisp is best the day it is made. If you have leftovers, re-heat in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes or the microwave for a few minutes.**
5 Delicious Fruit Crisp Links
Memorial Day and 4th of July are just around the corner so why not make Joan Nathan’s Red, White and Blue Fruit Crisp?
I can’t wait for peach season! Dolly + Oatmeal’s peach, hazelnut, shiso crisp with ginger ice cream and Minimalist Baker’s easy peach crisp are on my must make list this summer. Oh and they are both gluten-free!
Can’t get enough of sour cherry desserts? Check out my cherry oat crisp. It is the perfect summertime treat.
Want to know how to many any fruit crisp in just 5 easy-peasy steps? Head to Food 52 for some tips.