Searching for Youth Rhubarb Compote

The other day I woke up looking like Marla Hanson. No, I hadn’t been slashed in my sleep, but somehow my pillow case had left a cross-hatched pattern of deep, scar-like creases all over the right side of my face which took three hours to fade. Luckily, I didn’t have to be anywhere because if I had I would have needed to hide under dark glasses and a wide-brimmed sun hat which would have looked almost as strange as my pleated face since it was raining.

Oh, in case you don’t know who Marla Hanson is she became a household name (in New York anyway) in the mid-80’s after two thugs hired by a rebuffed wannabe suitor attacked her with a razor. Her model face required over 100 stitches and her career obviously needed some reconsidering.

Before I turned 40 my face was never this sensitive. Sure, once in a while I’d wake with a pillow line on my cheek, and maybe some puffy eyes after a sushi dinner, but neither of those afflictions took longer than a half hour to fade away. Oh, how I long for those days. Aging is really annoying. And I am a total sucker for anything that will stave off the signs that at this point I am heading north of 45. I can thank my grandmother for helping out, in that my genes have done a decent job of conspiring to fool the masses, but I’m still plagued by troublesome lines that appear out of nowhere and the feeling that my right eye-lid seems borrowed from a Shar-Pei. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything topical will help in this area, which is why my bangs will continue to get thicker and longer until someday I am forced to take drastic measures.
When you think about it (you probably don’t but I often do) 45 today bears no resemblance to what it did just 20 years ago. The other day while channel surfing I stumbled across an episode of The Partridge Family. Can you believe that Shirley Jones was only 36 when she took the role of their tireless, widowed mother? You know who is 36? Kate Winslet and Drew Barrymore. Imagine either of them as a mother of five, one of whom is in college. Crazy. Then there is Sunset Boulevard, One of my favorite movies in which Gloria Swanson plays a past-her-prime faded movie star whose close-ups are far behind her. She was 50 at the time. To put 50 in context today think of both Julianne and Demi Moore. Um, neither woman seems in any way faded to me which helps when my stomach sinks at the idea that chronologically I’m closer to Gloria than I am to Shirley.
With so many gorgeous women showing us how to stay vibrant and fabulous far longer than in the past, I am inspired to find ways to keep Father Time from knocking out Mother Nature. Serums, creams, scrubs and potions are rubbed (but not too vigorously!) into my skin. Water is consumed. Fitness is a priority. I’ve never smoked and I only drink in moderation. Of course the pitfall is sugar which has been shown to accelerate the aging process. But what’s a girl to do? I have to have some vices and sweets will be the only one left after All My Children vanishes from the airwaves in September.
To offset my insulin spiking eating habits I try to eat anything anointed as a super-food. A few years ago I went to an acupuncturist in the hopes of reducing my anxious state. The problem was that being left alone in a room covered with needles, with instructions not to move, only exacerbated the issue that brought me to the office in the first place. Also, the acupuncturist looked like one of Carmela Soprano’s best friends—not exactly the crunchy, Zen image I had in mind when seeking some Eastern calm. After I filled out a lengthy questionnaire the big haired practitioner prescribed an increase in my consumption of “red foods.” I’m still not sure why but I was to eat as much of anything red as I could, from blood rare meat to raspberries. I’m not much of a carnivore so the job fell to fruits and vegetables. (I should note that my emotional state hasn’t changed in the three years since I upped the red dosage.) Anyway, when rhubarb made the super-food list it was a great double whammy, good for me both inside and out. Although it’s been used in Chinese medicine forever, is filled with disease fighting properties as well as digestive encouragement, it was my vanity that was piqued when I learned it is a great source of lycopene—an antioxidant in the carotenoid family which firms the skin by helping to build collagen. Take that sheet wrinkles!
Ordinarily my instinct would be to bake a strawberry-rhubarb pie. But I have no reason to make a pie right now and the red stalks have been in the market for a few weeks now, beckoning me to buy some. The next best thing is this delicious compote. Rhubarb is pretty sour on its own but cooked with some sugar and lemon juice it becomes bright and sweet and so great spooned over yogurt (or vanilla ice cream or pound cake if you just want to ignore the sugar/aging correlation) that you’ll forget about how good it is for you. And until someone hands me a map to the fountain of youth you’ll find me at the market with a basket full of red and a pair of dark glasses.
Searching for Youth Rhubarb Compote
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1 pound rhubarb stalks cut into 1/2"-3/4" pieces (discard leaves, they are poisonous)
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of medium sized lemon (will yield about 3-4 tablespoons of juice)
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized heavy saucepan

Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally so sugar doesn't burn
Reduce heat to low and cook for 5-7 minutes till rhubarb is soft and tender but not completely mushy

Remove from heat and let cool completely. Compote will thicken up a bit.
Yield: 2 cups compote

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