On a hot August day when I was 14, I sat amongst hundreds of other soon-to-be 9th graders at our high school orientation. A teacher stood in front of us on the field behind the pool, shouting out instructions and things we’d need to know when we arrived on our first day. My cell phone buzzed in my pocket. When I answered, my mom asked when I was coming out. I didn’t understand why she was rushing me until we were on the freeway – I still remember the exact spot – towards the hospital where my grandfather had been admitted not long before, when she told me he had passed. I cried. Our family threw a huge life celebration in his honor soon after, with a cardboard cutout of my grandfather sitting in the driveway in an old car he’d loved. There were martini toasts, speeches, people I’d never met before, and people I’d known my entire life.
Shortly after, my grandma moved to Oregon. We helped pack the contents of her home into a moving truck, staring in disbelief that everything would fit. It felt weird for her to leave the house that held so many memories – family parties with jazz and blues music playing loudly, my grandpa saying “Let’s give ’em a round of applause!” whenever anyone arrived, refrigerated boxes of restaurant leftovers that my grandma happily accepted each time we ate out, the wooden Native American statue we kids always stared up at in the living room, the framed Blues Brothers and old car posters on the walls, my grandma’s artwork, my grandpa’s whistling. It felt weird for her to soon be living so far away.
The first time we visited her in Portland, she showed us a wild rhubarb bush growing on the side of her house. She spoke animatedly about this bush, so excited about the treasures it would soon reveal. I had no idea what rhubarb was.
Almost ten years later, I think of my grandma and her rhubarb plant whenever I see those bright red stalks. While I love them in strawberry rhubarb pie – the combination of the sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb makes my mouth water – this gluten-free breakfast cornbread is a new favorite! I loved baking it in the cast iron skillet and was amazed at how flawlessly it slipped out of the pan after baking. It was also my first time grinding and using quinoa flower, and I love the dense, chewy texture it created when mixed with almond meal and masa harina. I’ve been slathering it with peanut butter and serving it with a big side of fruit for a quick weekday breakfast.