Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America.

This is going to be a very good day.  I am going to do something with Mother and the girls that I have not done before. I am really fond of “firsts”.  “Firsts” mean you never know what to expect.  Father tells me you have no measuring stick for “firsts”. That is a good thing, because some things are not straight enough to measure.  We are going to harvest our rhubarb.  I have my own basket to carry.  Rhubarb comes up every year and gets larger each year.  The leaves are very, very big.  The stalks are red with a little bit of green.  Nell’s mother has rhubarb too.  Her plant is older than Mother’s and is almost three feet tall.

We could not pick our rhubarb last year because it was only the first year.  This year is the second year and we can pick for four weeks.  But next year will be the third year and Mother says we can pick our rhubarb for eight to ten weeks.  We do not cut the stalks ever.  They have to be pulled by hand….each one. I cannot wait to try to pull my first one.  Josh told me that sometimes he falls over backwards because he has to pull so hard.  Then when the stalk releases………over he rolls.

When I told Josh and Brent that I would be harvesting rhubarb with everyone today, Josh started to sing a silly song.  It sounded like “beebopareebop”.  Then Brent began to hop around on one foot and then the other in time to the music. I clapped my hands in time to the song. I don’t know that tune at all.  I wonder if Father has ever heard it. At Nell’s house, I tried to taste a piece before it was cooked.  It made my mouth all puckery and then my mouth began to fill with water.  I had to swallow….a lot. My face, near my ears, got very tingly. I like it much better cooked.

*  Rhubarb Tart

Cut the stalks in lengths of four or five inches, and take off the thin skin. If you have a hot hearth, lay then in a dish, and put over a think syrup of sugar and water, cover with another dish, and let it simmer very slowly an hour-or do them in a block tin sauce pan.  When cold, make into a tart, as codlin.  When tender, the baking the crust will be sufficient.

*A New System of Domestic Cookery

by Mary Beekman

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Nancy Bacon

Strawberry rhubarb was my favorite pie which my Grandma made. She didn't measure ingredients too often. Her best friend copied so of her recipes for me. What I liked about some of the cookies directions were the words "flour to roll". It's a good thing I had experience with baking!!!


My grandmother was Lithuanian, and when she came to America, ran a general store with her husband, a butcher, in New Jersey around 1920. She was the local "medicine woman", trying to help customers with herbal remedies from a wooden box. When I was born, we lived with them at the farm they bought in Connecticut and of course she had a huge garden-flowers, herbs, grapes, elderberries and rhubarb. I loved that story about harvesting the stems, and my grandmother would have me bring a bowl of sugar out to the patch so I could dip young stems in right on the spot!