First of all, here is a photo of rhubarb cobbler.

And this is my food blog post for all of yeterday’s commenters who think I would not be a good food blogger. You will love this post: it's about what to do if you think you're about to be fired.

1. Be really interesting. And fun. It's a lethal combination.
This photo looks disgusting, because that is the truth about food. Most of it looks disgusting. Even stuff that tastes good looks disgusting in a photo. It's like sex. If you have a cinematographer and three lighting guys and a foley artist who comes in at the end, then the sex looks great. But if you take a picture of yourself having sex, forget it. You look like gross, retarded animals.

So even good food looks disgusting. But this photo is not actually an example of that, because this rhubarb cobbler tasted disgusting as well. Too much flour, I think. Although Melissa kept saying it had too much butter. Maybe too much flour and butter and it needed more rhubarb.

The thing is that Melissa made the rhubarb cobbler. She has cooked exactly three times in the five weeks or so she has lived here. But I liked that she cooked. Cooking is so nice. It's just a generous and vulnerable thing to do for the person who is eating. So I didn’t care if she did a good job or not. I just liked that she tried.

This reminds me of the research about how people who are incompetent but likable almost never get fired. I mean, Melissa refuses to work on my goat cheese startup, and she seems to have lost my books in China (please, do not ask in the comments when my book is coming. It's coming) and she spends so much time obsessed with Cullen that it's like she has only half a brain when she's with me, but still, I like her so much. So I accept her rhubarb cobbler as an adequate attempt at doing valuable work.

2. Don't worry about who gets credit and who gets blamed. It's boorish to care.
We have tons of rhubarb in the garden, left from the people who owned the house before the farmer. The rhubarb is huge and all last year, while the farmer and I were fighting about that I could not get the bathroom tile installed so we were bathing by running up and down the Slip ‘n’ Slide Double Wave Rider, all last year people would come to the farm and say how could I let the rhubarb go unused. It is such good rhubarb.

So this year I've been diligent about pulling off flowers before they flower so the rhubarb lasts, and I give handfuls of it to everyone who comes by, because in the country everyone knows how to make rhubarb pie.

I made rhubarb pie.

I said, “Melissa. Take a picture of my pie. I need a picture.”

She said, “No. You'll write that my rhubarb cobbler sucked and your pie was great.

“No, I won't.”

“Yes you will.”

“Just take the picture.”

I saw her spending a lot of time on the picture. I had high hopes.

Here's what she took:

The pie was good. But, honestly, I sort of cheated. I got a crust from Trader Joe's. I love this brand. And it comes in pieces so it's hard to put together and I get to squeeze the edges so my finger prints are on the pie and I think people like that. Also, I mess around with the insides. Rhubarb is a flexible pie inside. I just need some sugary sticky stuff inside. So I put pie filling sometimes. Like, the paste of the canned blueberry filling, or strawberry applesauce. I buy the Whole Foods kind because expensive ingredients make you look like a good cook. (Remember this when I charge you and arm and a leg for humane goat cheese.)

Is it cheating, though, that people give me credit for being a good cook? I don't hide that I'm taking ingredients that are not from scratch. But really, don't tell me you make your pies from scratch. Do you harvest the wheat? I do. Well, I'm going to bale hay this summer. So it's sort of harvesting wheat. But I don't get credit for scratch, so neither do you.

And the thing is that people just want nice stuff. Good food, good conversation, interestingness in pie fillings. They don't care who gets credit—Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, whatever. People who stress the most about who gets credit and who deserves it are a bore, and they end up getting no credit because they end up getting fired.

So I say nothing about the pie. I do not fret about whether I should get credit or not, thanking the Farmer when he is effusive about each randomly mixed rhubarb non-recipe for pie I make. Well, I do fret, but I tell myself not to. It's so easy for me not to care about this stuff at work, and so much harder when it comes to food. But I think it's just because I'm new to cooking.

3. Prepare a speech.
I had to go to Madison to get food for dinner. We go there for cello. Who drives four hours round trip for a cello lesson for a five-year-old? Only a farm family, I think. Or an insane overachieving Westchester family, maybe. Both family types are insanely protective of the lifestyle they are determined to have.

On the way home, my neighbor Kathy called to see why I wasn't at home when she walked over to say hi. I tell her to wait—to just walk in and open a bottle of wine and we'll be there soon.

Kathy is upset because she thinks she's getting fired tomorrow.

Melissa and I ask her, “Why do you care? We've been fired a million times.”

Kathy tells us it's different in a small town.

I tell Melissa to take Kathy out to the field to collect nettles. It will cheer her up.

Kathy grew up on a farm. She is not going for the nettles. “Nettles?!?! Like, the weed? You eat those?”

I tell her the Farmer is obsessed with his book about how to forage for food. I do not tell her he is trying to teach himself to live off the weeds on his farm. I have empathy for Kathy. On my first date with the Farmer he served me dandelion leaves for salad. I thought he was too poor to buy real food, so I ate them all, to be respectful.

I explain to Melissa that Kathy will not be consoled with nettles.

They watch me cook.

Kathy stresses about getting fired. Melissa stresses about Cullen, which is sort of like stressing about getting fired, especially if one considers that her primary job is to get married.

I tell Kathy getting fired just means it was a bad match. She'll find something better to do.

Although I am not sure what else there is to do in Darlington besides work on a farm or in the school. But there must be something. Or if there isn't, there must be a big grant for creating Internet startup jobs in rural towns.

We eat rhubarb salad. It's not bad with canned mandarin oranges.

Melissa tells stories of getting fired like Vietnam vets tell stories about Phnom Penh. It's a lot of death with a sort-of-inappropriately cavalier tone.

Melissa tells Kathy to wait for the words, “You're fired.” And then, no matter what words lead up to that phrase, say, “I'm sorry you feel that way. Thank you for everything you've done for me.”

Then Melissa tells Kathy to just be quiet. The silence will be unnerving to the person firing her.

Melissa tells Kathy that also, sometimes you lose your hearing when you're fired. It's true. I can't believe Melissa remembers this detail. I've been fired 20 times and I didn't remember.

Then Melissa writes a script for how to act when you're fired for Kathy to memorize. If the first book we published hadn’t gone missing, I would suggest to Melissa that she turn her advice into a book.

We eat some leftover rhubarb pie for desert.

84 replies
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  1. Jack Ryan
    Jack Ryan says:

    First, let me state emphatically, that there is no randomness in the universe.
    I came home from work for lunch and picked up my laptop while eating lunch to do some more research on popular blogs. I was led to your site. I am afraid that I too, may soon be losing my job. I am not worried about it though and I would like to tell you why.
    I have changed my lifestyle. Mine was the typical American success story. I started out with nothing and soon found myself $500,000 in debt. I realized the insanity and eliminated everything but my mortgage. I don’t purchase things I don’t need and seldom purchase things I want. No credit cards, car payments, etc.
    I have been fired no less than a half dozen times. It hurts tremendously when it happens, but you always wake up the next day. I found myself somewhat recharged that I would finally be able to do what I WANTED to do instead of what I MUST.
    I often remind myself that when I near the end of my life that I do not want to regret having made poor career choices. Obligations often get in the way. I do see the trend of many people taking more control of their own future and destiny. This gives me hope for the future of the planet.
    As a final thought, my company recently laid off 20,000 employees. My group of twelve went to two and now one. Yes me. I told the others as we waited to see who stayed and who went that it would also be a curse to stay and be required to perform the workload of the previous twelve. It is a curse as I can attest.
    Oh well. I know I will wake up tomorrow.
    Jack

  2. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    I like Melissa’s take on getting fired. Don’t get bent out of shape about it. Be kind and polite. The other person doesn’t exactly like firing you either. Life does go on.

    And I like the farmer’s take on food. I grew up eating dandelions, and I craved them when I was pregnant.

    Another idea for rhubarb is to make rhubarb curry:

    curry paste
    2 tbsp butter
    1 onion
    2 shallots
    1 tbsp fresh ginger
    3 cloves garlic
    2 cups green cabbage or similar veggie, chopped
    2 cups diced potato or sweet potato
    1 ½ cups rhubarb, thinly sliced
    1 cup French lentils, pre-soaked
    2 tsp dark brown sugar
    1 bay leaf
    1 cup peas
    water

    1. Melt butter, fry onions, ginger, 8-10 minutes covered.
    2. Uncover and add curry paste.
    3. Add cabbage, potato, rhubarb, lentils, sugar, bay leaf, water to cover by 1 inch. Boil, then simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Stir and add water as needed to keep it soupy.
    4. Stir in peas, season to taste, cook for 4 minutes.

  3. ResuMAYDAY
    ResuMAYDAY says:

    “Then Melissa tells Kathy to just be quiet. The silence will be unnerving to the person firing her.”

    Not true, unless the person firing you is inexperienced at firing people. Most likely, she will respond by saying, “You’re welcome. Now please clean out your desk and don’t take a long time to say goodbye to everyone.” Then she’ll turn away and send an email to the IT person telling them to disable your email, then send a company-wide email stating that you and the company have decided to part ways and the company wishes you the best in your career. Then the search for your replacement commences, unless that person is already waiting in the wings.

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      Actually, most people are unnerved by silence. They are also unnerved by getting an unexpected reply, which that would be. (They’re prepared for anger, tears, etc., but not gratitude and courtesy.)

      The real question, I think, is what happens next. Because it’s not realistic to think “and after I say that, they will change their mind, and I will still have a job.”

      So, Penelope, what’s the rest of the script?

      • Shefaly
        Shefaly says:

        I think the best way to continue this script is as follows:

        Kathy: I am sorry you feel this way. Thank you for all you have done for me.

        (Then Kathy proceeds to collect her stuff – ideally she has it all ready in her bag so she can do the following: lay out her access card, drawer keys, laptop, Blackberry or other device on the table; smile at the other person, and leave without the need to stop at her desk.)

        Why might it be a good way to do things? Because few people expect that a person may not throw a fit at being fired. That is why they have this conversation in conference rooms and not at the person’s desk. It is the contrarian behaviour that unnerves them. Silence is but one way to show contrarian behaviour; smiling in difficult situations always, but always, unnerves people.

      • tim maguire
        tim maguire says:

        I’m not getting all the emphasis on grace as a form of revenge. Unnerving? Taking bad news well is not so rare that a person will be unnerved by it. The reason you say “thank you” and move on is that it is never wise to burn bridges.

        This person may be the bearer of bad news today, but they may be in a position to help you later and will be more willing to give you a chance if they know that, in the event it doesn’t work out, you are a professional to the end.

  4. sophie
    sophie says:

    A fewf things (okay more than a few):

    1. Here’s an awesome rhubarb recipe by 101cookbooks.com (the Farmer would like her style of cooking) http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/strawberry-rhubarb-crumble-recipe.html

    2. Food blogging and photography is incredibly time consuming. It’s a full time job, if done right.

    3. Baling hay and harvesting wheat are totally different. Hay is a legume, wheat a grass (grain). But you probably already know that. Baling hay will be a lot of physical work for Penelope, so kudos to her for helping with that. Melissa and Cullen better get off their butts and help as well.

    4. It sounds like Melissa and Cullen aren’t used to the unstructured environment of working from a home office. It’s really hard, isn’t it? It takes a lot of discipline and time management. I’d like you to write more about that, Penelope. I’d like to hear people’s advice.

    5. I’ll say a prayer for Kathy and her job. I can say that, because coming from small town Darlington, chances are Kathy practices a religion and will appreciate knowing someone’s praying for her. And how special for her to have Penelope and Melissa as friends.

    6. I think this friendship between Kathy, Penelope and Melissa is awesome. Three very different lifestyles, experiences and age groups (although I don’t know Kathy’s age). That you all can share and help each other is so cool, and, in turn you are helping all of us.

  5. terri
    terri says:

    Excellent advice on preparing to get fired. But more importantly, isn’t rhubarb deathly if you don’t do something to it…boil or bake or something?

    • Sarahnova
      Sarahnova says:

      …No?

      It’s perfectly safe to eat raw, but very tart. I have eaten it the old-school Scottish way, according to my BIL, which is to dip a raw stem into an eggcup of sugar. Sweet and sour taste explosion.

  6. chris Keller
    chris Keller says:

    I think that you who have been fired many times and have become inured to it must either be close to true enlightenment a la Zen detachment; or you must be defying the Freudian principles of “Love and Work” as THE top human priorities. Which is it?!?

    Is it a game where you, like the reality show contestants, jump crazily from platform to ball, often miss, and land in the drink? And then, simply try again, all wet and bedraggled, with pie on your face? Or is it a true injury, where you realize that you/your contribution doesn’t matter for much? That you may not be capable enough? That you may not “fit in”? Which is it??!!??

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Eating dandelion leaves reminds me of a job I had one summer while in college as a camp counselor at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps ( http://www.awc1.com/ ). I had six 10-12 year old boys for the summer. The hardest and yet most rewarding summer job.
    A week before the campers arrived, the camp counselors went on a few day trips and overnights to get to know each other and ‘exhibit’ their talents in the field. On one overnight, we were instructed by one guy what was edible and then we went out and foraged for greens. He looked over our spoils and fixed them up for our dinner. Unforgettable … and I was never so hungry as I was the next morning.

  8. Davers 6
    Davers 6 says:

    Re the rhubarb cobbler … just looking at the photo confirms the reason it tasted like boiled toad turds. Your rhubarb was still GREEN, totally UNripe … WEEKS away from being ripe! Rhubarb isn’t palatable until the stalks are a pinkish color = in SUMMER not Spring. Trust me on that one. Give it another shot around July 4th or so and see how you like it then.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I’m so excited to tell you my rhubarb expertise. There is red rhubarb and green rhubarb. Both are good to eat. Our rhubarb plant is more than 50 years old. I know it’s different. Next year, when I am more of a rhubarb expert, I’ll tell you about heirloom rhubarb.

      Penelope

      • dl
        dl says:

        Penelope’s right. There’s red and green rhubarb. In fact, most original varieties are green. And here in Wisconsin, Rhubarb is coming in full force NOW. I’ve made rhubarb cobbler and sauce so far. Next week, I’ll make a rhubarb pie for my father-in-law’s birthday like I do every year. His pie is never red. By summer, the rhubarb will be too far gone unless I go out and regularly cut off the flower heads and harvest stalks.

  9. Alison Green
    Alison Green says:

    This is, as always, a beautifully written post. Your writing is so often a delight to read, like eating a really good cake (or rhubarb cobbler)!

    But I’m going to take issue with the idea that you can often avoid getting fired by being likable. I mean, Melissa isn’t really doing what she’s supposed to be doing, but you don’t really care because you put a higher value on her companionship than what she actually achieves for you, and that’s completely fine. But in a business, where the goal isn’t companionship but rather getting some kind of very specific results, a good manager is going to look at what someone is accomplishing. So I don’t think the Melissa metaphor (as engaging as it is) really works to illustrate a workplace point.

  10. tiki
    tiki says:

    The advice from Melissa is good for someone who is her age and pedigree. Perhaps to an older woman especially (no offense to Kathy, she might be 20, just using this as an example) — but an older woman in a small town getting fired can be infinitely more life crushing than a 20 something who still has time to hop around and do dumb things like slumming it by living with a married couple on a farm.

  11. N.E.
    N.E. says:

    I love rhubarb! I didn’t know there were lots of varieties! I am crazy jealous!

    Your rhubarb cobbler looks different to the ones I’ve made. Less mushy. Normally the rhubarb bits become soft and stringy in mine…it may be a different variety or maybe more cooking time is needed? Also I recommend going easy on adding any sugar/sweet flavors to it (I think the tangy sourness of the real rhubarb flavor is where the beauty lies…)

  12. Lydia
    Lydia says:

    I made coconut rhubarb pie with a gluten free crust last season, and it was incredible, thanks also to being loaded with butter and sugar, as well as being my neighbor’s organic rhubarb. Thanks for another great post. I totally agree with your food/sex photography comments, and both are pretty relevant to my life today, so much so that I actually read that part out loud to my boyfriend.

  13. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I can’t bake. It’s a shame because I love to bake, and my grandparents were bakers so I feel that it is sort of my right to be a decent baker. But my other grandparents were explorers, so maybe I am less domesticated and more adventurous. This is what I tell myself, at least.

    I try to combine the two. Last week I thought, one of my favorite flavor combinations is chocolate-peanut butter-banana. Why isn’t this a cookie? So I made chocolate-peanut butter-banana cookies and discovered firsthand why it isn’t a cookie.

    I have all these things I sort of want to do, that are not professional baking since I’ve ruled that out. Firefighter, entrepreneur, diplomat, founder of an elephant orphanage… I hope I can fit them all in but then again if I ever get fired at least I have a lot of Plan Bs. Plan Bs are hard to come up with when you’re getting fired, so I think everyone should have one just in case. Although I realize that opening an elephant orphanage would require a lot of travel from both rural Wisconsin and urban North Carolina.

    • Chris McLaughlin
      Chris McLaughlin says:

      You can’t make chocolate peanut butter banana cookies, but you can bake all three into a bread. Make a few recipes first: then you’ll know where you can extrapolate and where you shouldn’t try.

      • Harriet May
        Harriet May says:

        I went through a vegan phase in college where I baked tons of banana bread, since banana is a common substitute for egg but you can only use it in things you want to taste like banana. So I think this is a good idea. But then again I still think me baking is not. :)

  14. vishnel
    vishnel says:

    Please don’t try to sound that pioneer lady’s blog. It seems like that’s what you’re doing in this post. You tell people to be themselves, so I want to take a moment to remind you to do the same. I don’t even read the pioneer blog but I read the New Yorker piece about it, how she pretends to be Every Hick by using Kraft parmesan cheese in her lasagna, etc. I sensed the author’s contempt for how she’s capitalizing by playing a part and all these people are too stupid to get that. You don’t want that. Just saying.

    • Brenda
      Brenda says:

      Re: Kraft cheese in every post: If you read her blog you’d know that’s because she can only shop from a tiny general store and Kraft tends to be the only cheese brand.

      She IS a hick, in the best sense of the word.

  15. Sheryl
    Sheryl says:

    “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

    I just stole that from someone on Reddit.

  16. Erika
    Erika says:

    Hmm…most of the cobblers I’ve made have had the fruit on the bottom, topping on the top. Otherwise the top doesn’t bake & brown, and it’s just a disgusting glutinous mess.

    However, I have to agree in about the TJ’s pie crust. They’re quite good, and even if it is cheating, anything that saves your sanity when making pie is worth it. Epicurious (or maybe it was Saveur?) also voted Whole Foods pie crusts as being among the best.

  17. sadya
    sadya says:

    How do u keep the same audience even when you have changed gears? from corporate stuff to domestic stuff especially when u know ur primary readers are male (u mentioned it earlier). Is this some serial entrepreneurs/ career changers have a problem with? You build a network but u move to another field, so how do u move the network along….. besides cleverly using your SEO skills ;-)

    • Mishigas
      Mishigas says:

      @Sadya: Because people like Penelope. Because they like her stories and way she tells them. The content, sometimes, is irrelevant.

  18. dk25
    dk25 says:

    Thinks its pretty amazing that this is Melissa’s website. It’s interesting to hear her “voice”

  19. mysticaltyger
    mysticaltyger says:

    Can someone please tell me who Melissa is and link the the first blog post about her?????

  20. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    Being likable can keep you from getting fired as long as you’re doing your job *well enough.*

    If you aren’t, being likable is not going to keep you from getting fired, and it will eventually alienate your co-workers, because they have to pick up your slack.

    So if you’re going to focus on being likable, remember to still do your job.

    • Bart
      Bart says:

      “Being likable can keep you from getting fired as long as you’re doing your job *well enough.*”

      True. And if your boss still fires you, well, that’s another story.

  21. Irving Podolsky
    Irving Podolsky says:

    I don’t know, is it just me who thinks that this post is NOT about Kathy or ruhbarb desserts? Or am I the only one writing about it?

    There is a message buried here and Melissa needs to find it. This post is really about a friend’s lack of reciprocation and how it’s affecting the relationship. This post is about giving and knowing how to give back. It’s about taking a friendship and deeds of friendship for granted. It’s about resentment building up. And if this post is NOT about all that, please tell me right here. I don’t want to be unfair.

    Irv

  22. Mary Budge
    Mary Budge says:

    I was just wondering, where is the book I ordered? How has it gone missing? You need a blog post about the trials and tribulations of getting your book published.

  23. Stacy
    Stacy says:

    Oh dear lord please BE you! I love you and your writing. I can’t get enough of you or the things you write about! F the PW. Really, because you are perfect being yourself.

  24. Davers 6
    Davers 6 says:

    Now that Oprah is gone THIS has clearly become the new women’s chitty chat girly relationship whining place to waste time. I’m outta here – would rather stick knitting needles in my eyes than endure more endless ‘estrogen baths’ from gasbag Oprah wannabes.

  25. downfromtheledge
    downfromtheledge says:

    I was WONdering how the hell you’re getting Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods out in the…wherever you’re at…I’d take any excuse to drive hours back to civilization, too.

    I have never made a pie crust from scratch, and I don’t want to learn. I don’t really like the crust, so why would I invest so much energy into something bleh? It’s flour lard. I’d rather eat a graham cracker crust. Plus those brands are top-rated for tasty pie crusts, but I’d have to drive halfway across Iowa to get it, too. Not gonna happen.

    • Jim C.
      Jim C. says:

      Flour lard? Only if you do it wrong.
      I make my crusts with butter, so it’s more like shortbread minus the sugar.
      (Took me 30 years to learn how to do it right, because the tricks are not in the cookbooks.)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Well, I wouldn’t drive two hours to Madison for Whole Foods, but we drive two hours to Madison for cello and violin lessons, so I get pie stuff while we’re there.

      Penelope

  26. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    You do entertain me Penelope Trunk. I always read straight to the end. Love the first attempt at a Pioneer Woman post–you go girl. :-)

  27. Hwd
    Hwd says:

    Love this! I’m not sure which part is better…the post itself or the comments (which are fabulous too).

  28. poppygirl
    poppygirl says:

    are you sure that the cobbler isn’t asparagus? isn’t rhubarb supposed to be reddish?

    • Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
      Caitlin @ Roaming Tales says:

      Okay, I didn’t know there was such a thing as rhubarb that is green when it is ripe. I just read that in your reply to a comment further up the thread. However, I would say that it needs to be cooked more, so it’s falling apart and cooked with a bit of sugar so it’s not too tart. Melissa’s cobbler has lumps of rhubarb rather than gooey stewed rhubarb. She might want to try it again and cook the rhubarb first with a bit of sugar to taste and THEN make the cobbler. You won’t need any Whole Foods pie filling that way either.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        The photo is uncooked. I don’t even know why I’m defending Melissa’s cobbler, except that I’m shocked about how much advice people have about rhubarb.

        Penelope

  29. Dips
    Dips says:

    The photograph has me confused. I have never eaten or seen a Rhubarb Cobbler. As far as I know a cobbler mends shoes. Till I googled it. Im from India, we dont eat Rhubarb unless we go to a restaurant just to eat it. Its not native.

    So isnt a rhubarb cobbler more brown topped? This didnt look like a dessert. Anyway. As long as you ate it.

    About Poor Kathy. Shouldnt she focus a little more on keeping the job? Rather than being prepared on losing it? I dont know how the school dynamics work, but perhaps she can ensure she improves till her boss doesnt want to fire her. Else maybe look for another job, than having a fun time wallowing in the firm idea that she will lose the job and how she should handle getting fired.

    *shrugs* But then you know the full story. You are there, living the life, and may I add, eat that cobbler… and pie (which looked totally eatable, if I may add).

  30. russell1200
    russell1200 says:

    I was not aware that you could mess up Rhubarb. It still looked better than that floppy hat thing you wear.

    I would say that it is still not a great time to be fired anywhere. Not an awful time to be looking, but they keep talking about companies that only hire on people who already have a job.

  31. Soonish
    Soonish says:

    This comment — “sometimes you lose your hearing when you're fired” — can be explained by reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, BLINK.

    Being fired is very high stress for some people. That kind of stress is about equal to the stress of, say, having a gun pointed at you or being in a serious accident situation.

    Read the book.

  32. Lori
    Lori says:

    the reason you would be a good food blogger (i think a *great* food blogger) is the same reason you’re a good work blogger, psychology blogger, relationship blogger, etc. etc. ad nauseum — you’re a great writer, you exploit your particular point of view, and you’re always interesting and provocative.

    i feel for kathy. everyone in a rural town wants a job *in town*. jobs elsewhere may pay more but they involve a commute. it’s their dream to get one of the few jobs in town so they don’t have to drive back and forth. people hold onto their crappy jobs like rent-controlled apartments.

    • chris Keller
      chris Keller says:

      I agree that many people probably hang onto crappy jobs like rent-controlled apartments.

      Would Kathy be open to being an entrepreneur? She has the right neighbor to help her . . .

      If there are any people in the area who cannot easily drive out for their groceries, Kathy could shop for them–like a Peapod service . . . or if anybody needs a ride to an appointment, Kathy might chauffeur them . . . Or Kathy might place an ad to tutor/do homework with kids who need mentoring/tutoring.

      Maybe Kathy could offer herself to the local newspaper on a part-time basis (all of the above jobs are part-time, but could add up) to cover events and stories.
      Covering local government? Feature stories, such as how the weather is affecting your community. Emergency mgmt. such as how prepared YOUR community in Darlington is for a major weather event, like a tornado. How many people in the community have an underground/basement shelter and how it is stocked . . . the pros and cons of voter-ID, a bill just passed overnight in our state. Pros/cons of concealed-carry, a bill under deliberation in our state. Approval ratings for state politicians–Scott Walker’s just dropped from 46% to 43% this week–what is it in Darlington? Etc.

  33. Sara
    Sara says:

    I wouldn’t feel bad about your books being lost in China; I work for a large educational publisher and we have similar problems with books printed overseas :)

  34. Dale
    Dale says:

    Penny,
    Why don’t you teach Kathy to start her own business? The process could be enlightening for you too.

  35. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    Real pie, and any kind of cooking from scratch, is an art. The fact that you want to do paint-by-numbers instead of learning the craft does not negate that.

    It’s sort of like saying, “Oh, I just made my website with this WYSIWYG website-builder tool. If you didn’t invent HTML then you didn’t make yours from scratch either, so mine is just as custom built as yours.”

  36. Susan
    Susan says:

    Thanks for another great post. I’ve been worrying about getting fired for a long time now. We’ve had several rounds of layoffs and reorganizations, not to mention some nasty office politics from some of the survivors.

    But I wanted to share my favorite recipe for rhubarb pie. I’m in California and so rhubarb is very seasonal in the stores. I grow it in my garden in the middle of a patch of strawberries, but it’s not enough to satisfy my craving for rhubarb in the spring.

    Rhubarb Pie
    This recipe comes from a cookbook I bought in the Amana Colonies and comes from the Ox Yoke Inn in Amana, Iowa. The pie is a nice combination of rhubarb and custard. I usually leave out the salt and use milk instead of half & half.

    Mix together
    3 to 3 ½ cups fresh or frozen rhubarb
    1 ½ cups sugar
    1 T flour
    3 eggs
    ¼ cup half & half
    Dash of salt

    Sprinkle another tablespoon of flour on the bottom of an unbaked pie shell. Pour the rhubarb mixture into the pie shell and bake at 375° for 45 minutes to an hour or until set.

  37. m
    m says:

    I’m an architect in Chicago. In late 80s, a very large international architecture firm had several very large projects in London which were slowing down. In course of a year, firm laid-off approx 800+ people. Most went meekly without challenge. Lay-off procedure was a phone call to come to conference room, ten-minute “you’re laid off, please go”, and then lay-offee departed. All but one. A young Iranian woman architect, already reputed to be somewhat crazy, failed to cooperate. Her lay-off took several hours. She refused to leave conference room, and she put a curse on firm which seems to persist today.

  38. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I know I said I wouldn’t read your blog anymore, but I can’t resist, especially the subject of rhubarb which is one of my fruits.

    I’m surprised you didn’t combine it with strawberries. I know everyone does it, but I just found out why – they usually come in season together. I actually like rhubarb better with raspberries, though.

    I think it’s cool that the Farmer forages for food. I started this too early in the spring. So far, I only found edible lettuce but next year I’m going to investigate whether my suspicions are correct and if there is such a thing as wild cilantro. Because when you walk in the woods here around Jan or Feb, there’s this wonderful light lemony fragrance, and I finally traced it to this small tiny ground cover type plant. It kind of looks and smells like cilantro, so next year my goal is finally to identify the plant.

    Good luck with all future food posts. I think Melissa might be onto a good fun dish with that green goo thing. She should keep working on it!

    And good luck to Kathy. I’ve never been fired but the other week, I thought I might lose my pittance of an office/clerk thing because I didn’t go for like a month. And then I asked myself, “If I got fired, would it really be that bad?” and the answer was no. So I wasn’t scared anymore and then I didn’t get fired.

  39. Eirini H
    Eirini H says:

    I’m about to fire a couple of people myself,I think I’ll use the unnerving silence technique if and when they ask me why,thanks Melissa,thanks Penelope!

  40. Geli
    Geli says:

    It’s never easy to terminate or getting terminated, but playing games while being fired is probably the most immature thing that anyone could recommend. Melissa is young and carefree, she’s freeloading on your farm and doing absolutely nothing except keep you company. Her cooking as in exhibit A sucks and
    her work ethics too! The minute she gets fed up at the farm
    or Cullen asks her to go with him, she’ll be gone…

    As for Kathy: as a friend she would have deserved a better answer. It’s your choice what you want to be to her.

    Last not least, rhubarb tastes great cooked, with lots of sugar and raisins. Top it with some vanilla ice cream – no pie crust needed!

  41. rhubarb baker
    rhubarb baker says:

    I’m surprised at everyone’s lack of rhubarb knowledge. But then I have to remember must buy from the grocery store, where nowadays food is sold by looks rather than taste. If you have a chance, buy rhubarb from a farmer’s market. In fact, try to buy most of your produce from a farmer’s market – you’ll be amazed at how good it actually tastes.

    Here’s a description for rhubarb plants sold by Jung’s Seed in Wisconsin. This is the rhubarb often found on old farmsteads. This must be what I have,since my patch was here when I moved here 20+ years ago.

    >>The rhubarb Grandma grew. This vigorous, easy-to-grow variety has thick, meaty, tender stalks with a rosy-red exterior. The interior is bright green with a hint of red. Flavor has an old-fashioned tart punch.<<

    And yes, rhubarb with strawberries is supreme. You don't have to use so much sugar and you'll get the red color you think you need.

  42. Marsha Keeffer
    Marsha Keeffer says:

    I was worried how to combine all the stuff I do – fiduciary work, writing, and career/job search – then I read this piece from you on rhubarb, goat cheese and getting fired.

    Inspirational – thank you!

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