Never did a year pass without my granddaddy having a vegetable garden, and I am quite sure there was not any other place he would rather have been than working in his garden. He was a professor at King College in Bristol, Tennessee, and often incorporated gardening into any lesson he could. He was known in his neighborhood, and at King College, for his garden and fruit trees, along with the products of his labor. Each year he dedicated a number of back rows in his garden to rhubarb. He would bring in a great deal of rhubarb, and my grandma would sometimes boil it and freeze it. But most of the time she would make a number of pies for their neighbors and colleagues. My grandparents were well known for this strawberry rhubarb pie.
There is something to be said about the traditional gender roles that are associated with the process of how these strawberry rhubarb pies were made by my grandparents. Granddaddy strongly believed that working in the garden was a man’s chore and that anything involving the kitchen, except eating, was a woman’s chore. There is a distinct line that was not crossed in the making of these pies: Granddaddy grew the rhubarb, brought it to Grandma, and she did all the preparation and baking.
My grandparents raised seven children (six boys and one girl), and one of my uncles enjoys telling about sitting in the same place at the dinner table because it was where a drawer was attached to the underside of the table. During the blessing, he would sneak food into the drawer because he says there was never enough food to fill his stomach. The only food he never hid in the drawer was rhubarb pie, which he did not like at all.
Granddaddy and Grandma are now deceased, but the tradition of their strawberry rhubarb pie lives on at family reunions and during holidays.
1 cup cut up strawberries
1 cup white sugar
3 cups cut up rhubarb stalks, ½” pieces. Cut strings off the stalk. (Do not use the leaves!)
Couple or three dashes of salt
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
3 tablespoons quick tapioca
Heat oven to 400°. Mix all ingredients and set aside for 15 minutes. Line a pie pastry in bottom of pie pan, pour in ingredients, and place a top pastry over them. Seal edges and cut designs out of top for steam to release. Bake 20 minutes at 400˚. Reduce heat to 350˚ and bake 30-40 more minutes. Let cool and serve cold so the juices are thick. Can be served at room temperature.