This kitchen conflict hinges on sweetness

After almost 47 years of marriage, there is a certain amount of predictability in my parents' relationship. The ensuing conversations that spring from recurring scenarios range from cute to obnoxious.

One of my favorites is their seasonal food fight. Nothing like pie in the face or pudding down the pants.

My parents disagree about how sweet things should be. In the summer, it's Mom's three-bean salad. Dad likes it sweet. Mom doesn't. During winter months, Dad likes to fix baked beans with lots of brown sugar and maple syrup. Mom gags. And every spring, as much a harbinger of the season as tulips, is my father's whining over Mom's rendition of rhubarb pie. She loves it tart. He needs copious amounts of — you guessed it! — sugar.

So every year, whenever the first rhubarb treat is pulled from my oven, the little girl inside me travels back to Grandma's house for Sunday dinner. Dad has just bitten into a piece of his mother's rhubarb pie. "Now THIS is a rhubarb pie," he would always say, a satisfied smile taking up residence on his face.

Mom, the lady that she is, would smile also. And now I know why. She was plotting the pucker factor of her next rhubarb creation. Well, here are a few recipes to help you enjoy the season. I'll leave the sugar adjustments up to you.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by e-mail at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at

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