Long after I should have been sleeping, I laid awake thinking about my dog. I thought about how much I loved this four-legged creature who couldn’t even utter words to me, but yet, I feel so connected to her. I thought about how I’ve only been away from her for about 2 weeks in her entire lifetime. I thought about how betrayed I felt the one time she growled at me. I thought about how I “joke” about her loving the Urban Farmer more than me because he takes her to the farm, where she has utmost freedom and a sense of purpose. I thought about how I miss the spending the entire day with her, but ultimately, I’m happy she loves the Urban Farmer, and I know the farm is her little sheepdog destiny. In short, I realized just how much I love my little Julep because I’m able to put her happiness above my own. This, I realized, from my sleepless, crazy-dog-lady thought stream, is only 1/100th of what it must feel like to be a mother.
I am my mother’s daughter- from her cheekbones, to her voice, to her profile, her eyes and her hands, but when it comes to her patience and her selflessness, I am still a child, a mere student trying to copy the experienced professor’s example. When it comes to sacrifice and thoughtfulness, I have yet to find an example greater than her.
As soon as I was old enough to toddle around, I was in her lap attempting to sew with her. In Middle School, she helped me start my own sewing business. In High School, she sewed the prom dresses I designed. She was my sounding board, my moral support, my constant encouragement, and she loved me more than I can imagine, but as I left our home, the very last baby bird to leave the nest, I drifted farther from her in more ways than one.
I needed to find myself, to see the world, to figure out where I stood and what I believed. During the course of that time, I distanced myself, a stance my loving mother clearly noted. In one of her many handwritten, thoughtful notes to me, she expressed sadness over the gap that had grown between us, and a piece of my heart broke. I had so selfishly hurt this woman who gave me everything and asked for so little in return- just my company. I’ve tried to mend, tried to mitigate the major differences between us, tried to defend her happiness, but when I think of how much she has given me, I realize how short my efforts have fallen.
This is motherhood, I suppose- sweet and tart, ups and downs, immense joys and immense sorrows, and as all of those extremes flash by way too quickly, the thread of love remains just as secure, despite whatever other unraveling occurs.
I’m not a mother, but I have a deep respect for those exemplary women who nurture that love, for all its burdens and rewards. I respect those women who love with such a powerful force, no other relationship can even come close to its strength. Conversely, I sympathize for those women who want that bond so badly, but for whatever reason, never have the opportunity, or for those who do, but only for a moment. Sweet and tart.
This Mother’s Day, I was unfortunately half a country away from the woman who showed me what it means to be a mother, and I owe her more than these words, more gestures to explain the immense gratitude I feel for her gentle love and tireless support. I owe her so much more.
This Mother’s Day, I was fortunate to spend the day with the women who shaped the Urban Farmer, who loved him, nurtured him and encouraged him to be the ambitious, sympathetic, sincere man who I admire and love wholeheartedly. When I was all too young to be receiving dating advice, my sisters ingrained in me the importance of a man’s relationship with his mother. “If you want to know how he’ll treat you, look at how he treats her,” they told me when the only men in my life were Prince Eric and Aladdin. As an adult, I understand the lessons my sisters were trying to impart, and the Urban Farmer’s relationship to his mother and grandmother only makes me love him more.
These Rhubarb Compotes and Rhubarb Upside Down Cake were for the Mothers on their day. The local, seasonal ingredient choice was a nod to my own mom, who resourcefully collected the stringy stalks from the puzzled neighbors’ yards and returned beautiful, delicious, seemingly effortless desserts in their stead. My Mom was and is magical in the kitchen, but more importantly, she’s just a magical woman. Happy Belated Mother’s Day to my own mother and to all you who endure the sweet times and the tart times of motherhood!
p.s: These sweet & tart compotes would make great baby shower party favors too!
About These Recipes: Rhubarb season is early spring, so take advantage with these two recipes. The upside down cake contrasts the tartness of the rhubarb with zesty lemon and almond flavors in a moist, spongey cake. Rhubarb compote is perfect on toast, on pound cake, on ice cream, in yogurt, etc, or add a spoonful to the heavy cream and make a tart and tangy whipped cream to top this cake.
Whole Wheat Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
3-4 stalks local rhubarb
1/2 cup organic raw cane sugar
2 Tablespoons red wine (such as Cabernet) (optional)
3 cups organic whole-wheat pastry flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest (from 1 medium organic lemon)
1 cup organic buttermilk
4 Tablespoons red wine (optional)
2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
2 teaspoons organic almond extract
2 sticks organic, unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups organic raw cane sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature (organic/cage-free)
Preheat oven to 350℉. Line a 9-inch springform cake pan with non-stick parchment paper.
Slice rhubarb in halves lengthwise and arrange in the base of the pan.
Toss the sugar over the stalks and drizzle with the red wine.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and lemon zest.
In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, wine, vanilla and almond extract.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the flour and milk mixtures, alternating between three additions of the flour and two additions of the milk.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, gently level with a spatula.
Note: You can fill the cake pan about 3/4 full. There may be some extra batter, which you can use to make a few cupcakes, or a small cake.
Bake until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean–roughly 40-50 minutes (Start checking at 30).
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert carefully onto a plate, and place on a rack to cool completely. Note: There will be juices on the bottom of the pan, so use caution when inverting the cake.
yield: approx. 8 cups
8-10 stalks rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch chunks (about 8 cups)
1 1/2 cups organic raw cane sugar
1/4 cup red wine
1 piece (1 inch) fresh peeled ginger, finely grated
zest of 1 organic lemon
Stir together rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepan (off heat); let stand until rhubarb releases some liquid, about 10 minutes.
Add red wine, ginger and lemon zest. Bring rhubarb mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb has broken down but some whole pieces remain, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Let sauce cool completely before serving.