It would be lovely, I suppose, if every stalk of rhubarb shot up clean bubble gum pink throughout, and if it stirred up into a jam the color of nail polish, and if (while we’re dreaming) it could in no way, in any quantity, poison anyone. The rhubarb I buy at the store is like this, but the stuff in our backyard—rhubarb reliably misshapen, strangely sized, and half-buried in dead leaves—is not really all that pretty.
This year, I hacked it all into pieces any which way, piled it into a roasting pan with a cup of sugar and a cinnamon stick, and roasted it for almost two hours, until the foam had subsided and a thick, gooey jam had begun to stick to the sides of the metal.
My rhubarb jam wasn’t even close to pink, and somehow, this feels like a shortcoming. But while it roasted, I put my kid down for a nap, tagged up on a deadline, made myself coffee, answered email, and made dinner. Oh, I brought the mail in, too. I was jamming, people, in more ways than one. And right now, balancing a book release and a new lupus treatment and a traveling husband and the kind of sunny Seattle weather that makes me want to lie prostrate in the back yard, I can’t think of anything more beautiful than a jam that doesn’t require actual attention.
This is one of those. There’s chopping and mashing and scooping and smashing, but you won’t need an ounce of glamour to make it. You don’t need a recipe, even-just four pounds of rhubarb, a cup of sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a bit shy of 2 hours at 400 degrees, stirring every so often. Call it jam, or compote, or stuff, even. It doesn’t matter what you call it. I pile the roasted rhubarb stuff on yogurt, and eat it after Graham goes to bed, when the house is silent, and I want the last part of the day to sweeten anything sourish that’s happened during the daylight hours.
This stuff sweetens life just enough.