Whip it good

There was a time when I didn't like coffee and when hot chocolate was far too chocolatey for my vanilla-loving palate. In those days - when I was no older than ten - the only appealing offering in coffee shops was whipped cream. When I used to accompany my parents I would ogle cups of hot chocolate decorated with a generous hat of whipped cream. When they ordered me one I'd lick off the top in a single slurp. I couldn't stomach the chocolate, though. I'd swirl the liquid continuously making wonderful chocolate designs until it was time to leave and I could throw it out. It wasn't before long that my dad thought of a solution: skip the chocolate, keep the whipped cream. He'd plop me at a table, disappear to order drinks, returning shortly with his steaming cappuccino and, for me, a cup filled to the brim with whipped cream.

I wasn't a picky eater. I just really didn't like chocolate. Whipped cream and white rice, however, I liked. Really liked. I enjoyed them as much plain as I did combined with other foods. I still do.

On the farm this winter we rarely ate dessert. The volunteers' oven lacked a door for the first three-quarters of my stay, and we spent the majority of weekends eating enough ice cream and pastries to tide us over for the week. But one evening when we had plans to make a simple pasta dish, Sarah spotted the cluster of rhubarb in the garden. We'd been neglecting this rhubarb, and it wasn't likely to live much longer. How do we feel about rhubarb compote with whipped cream, sarah asked. I felt good, really good. Because I love rhubarb, and I love compotes, but I love whipped cream more. And this whipped cream, I suspected, made with raw cream from Cynthia's lovely half-Jersey Margarita and whipped by hand, would be particularly delicious.

It took us hardly twenty minutes to whip the cream into dense smooth peaks. We cooked the rhubarb with gooseberry jam and little sugar to concocting a tangy, flavorful sauce. It was a wonderful treat on its own, but when paired with the whipped cream, mmmm. I ate some truly delicious meals during my stay on the farm, but that whipped cream....

And almost the whole dessert - all but the sugar - came right from our farm.

Rhubarb Compote
serves four

10 stalks of rhubarb, peeled and chopped
3/4 c sugar, or to taste
berry jam with whole fruit or large pieces (optional)

Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, making sure the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat to low, stirring regularly until the rhubarb is soft and the mixture resembles a soft jam. Add berry jam if desired, as much or as little as you like, stirring the compote regularly so it does not burn. Taste to see if it needs more sugar. When the compote has reached a consistency you like, turn off the heat. Let cool. This compote is best when served warm or at room temperature with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream. Use the best quality of cream you can find, unpasteurized if possible.

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