This is Not Manna

I just came back yesterday from a church convention. It was all that a church convention can be – a mix of inspiration and tedium, passion and boredom, renewal and rehashing.

Ours was held near the airport in Toronto, and I recall another such convention in a like location some years ago. The convention chaplain at that meeting spoke about the experience of the children of Israel in the wilderness in a sermon. The weariness of eating manna day in and out brought to his mind his experience of receiving rhubarb as a parish pastor on the prairies years ago. For those not in the know, rhubarb is described as an herb. It grows as a stalk, which is eaten. It has a lovely flavour, but is very crisp, sour and utterly devoid of sugar. My memories of it as a child were of its marriage to strawberries at this time of year – in a sauce poured over ice cream, or eaten on its own by dipping in a bowl of sugar.

The convention chaplain derided it a bit, which made me rather unhappy. In those days, I had two huge rhubarb plants, from which I made both rhubarb juice and wine. The former was a refreshing alternate to fruit juice for breakfast with a raspberry like tartness, and especially lovely in the winter. The latter was a simple but satisfying fruit wine for a Friday movie night in the basement, in the days when a movie meant a trip to the local video rental location. I loved rhubarb and given its relatively short season in my world did not find it a fitting parallel to the tedium of manna in Moses story.

At our recent convention, I bumped into Kathryn S., who most recently gave me some pounds of fresh cut rhubarb, which I turned into canned rhubarb, seen below. I thanked her again, showing her the photo, and saying I would think on her when mixing a bit with my home-made granola in the middle of the winter. She wondered whether this said rhubarb might end up in a blog post, demonstrating both her prescience and my eagerness to find fit material for a rumination, now on rhubarb, which brings me back to my earlier observation about the rhubarb sermon.

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It could well be that the good pastor received more rhubarb than he knew what to do with. But times have changed and the comparison does not hold, in my estimation. Rhubarb is gold in the local grocery store, and I have tried growing it in our back yard but to nearly no avail. Our back yard is too shadowed. I do not at all associate rhubarb with tedium, but rather delight and so I thank Kathryn, doubly, for this fine food which also serves me as an aide de memoire of grace.

I should mention that I have never canned rhubarb before. I didn’t exactly have a recipe. I found a few on-line recipes, but they seemed to be more complicating than necessary. I simply did with rhubarb as I have done with canned peaches although upping the sugar to water ratio a bit. In due course I will find out whether I succeeded, or not, and now look about for other manna (or not) like miracles for use in canning, fruit juice, or perhaps even that most private of pleasures: fruit wine aged in the cellar.

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15 thoughts on “This is Not Manna

  1. We made a delightful rhubarb ginger jam with candied ginger as well as fresh. I sell my products at the farmers’ market and those sold out! Even people who started by saying “I don’t like rhubarb” bought a jar after tasting it. Let me know if you want the recipe. 🙂

  2. R says:

    Rejecting rhubarb is like rejecting the grace of God. Possible, but why?

  3. Grace Saabas says:

    rhubarb also makes good pie! You can even mix it with strawberries in pie. It used to be considered a spring tonic for many reasons!

  4. diannegray says:

    I haven’t had rhubarb in many years, Allen and you just reminded me how much I used to love it. My mother would always have some on the table for desert. I’m going to add it to my shopping list for Thursday! Thank you 😀

  5. shoreacres says:

    i haven’t had rhubarb in years. What appears in the stores here is rare, limp, and tasteless. Sigh. I never was a huge fan, but strawberry/rhubarb is a great combination. We used to eat it as a crisp, a cobbler, or pie.

    Of course, the best thing you can do with a rhubarb leaf is make a sunbonnet out of it — it you’re an eight-year-old girl, that is.

    The ennui and boredom associated with daily rhubarb is one approach, of course, but I think I would have taken a different tack. The point is that the folks weren’t able to “put up” their manna for a future manna-less season. They got just enough for a day, and had to trust that it would show up the next day, too. It was the trusting, day after day, that was important: not the lack of variety in their diet.

    In any event, may rhubarb abound! And the photo’s great. There’s nothing that makes me feel good like canned fruits or veggies lined up on a counter.

    • agjorgenson says:

      I like your take on the story, and think it has far more homiletic potential than that used by the then preacher! I just picked up a bit more on our way home after a morning of picking strawberries in a do-it-yourself strawberry patch. I suspect that some of the both will end up in a pie tomorrow!

  6. I loved the analogy for the Synod Assembly, but given how good – and newly precious – rhubarb has become, and the increasingly bad rep of sugar, perhaps there was more rhubarb than sugar in our recent meetings?

  7. dianerivers says:

    Hmmm. Never having tasted rhubarb (what a great word, though, don’t you think?), I guess I’m going to have to go looking for it so I can weigh in on this discussion…

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