Life has done a full circle. On Saturday we sunscreened-up and headed for the 150th Kyneton Agricultural Show, the sweet sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival ringing in my ears courtesy of the teenagers next door. The Snake Handlers were up first. Surprisingly, I had the courage to touch many reptiles, not least of all a junior crocodile (with its mouth taped shut) and an enormous olive python. Mr R was a little more wary and when I bellowed “scaredy cat!” at him he retorted that repeatedly stroking a dry old snake just for the sake of it was not his idea of fun, nor he suspected, the snake’s. Welcome to my world.
Next, and possibly my favourite part of The Show was the poultry competition. This little poppet won ‘Best Behaved Bird’.
I suspect any sort of misbehaviour might mess up that marvellous bouffant, clearly her pride and joy. There were also prizes for ‘Cheekiest Face’ and ‘Best Prepared’. ‘Best Prepared!’ Imagine the prestige back at the hen house. All those early morning exercises, trips to the salon, careful dieting, they paid off!
There were vegetable competitions too, and prizes for the best pavlova, fluffiest scones, loveliest saucer of flowers and biggest bottle of pickles. As the proud inherited owner of a patch of rhubarb, I was pleased to see mine almost measured up to the prize-winning bunches.
And on doing some research, I was excited to learn that rhubarb is actually a vegetable! (Except in the USA where in 1947 it became a fruit for tax purposes). The rhizomes ('roots') contain stilbene compounds (including rhaponticin) which seem to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic mice.
Not being the weather for hot puddings, I decided to experiment with rhubarb ice-cream and this is what happened… I cut a bunch of rhubarb stalks into even chunks, added half a cup of caster sugar, a tablespoon of water and two capfuls of rosewater then let them simmer away in a small saucepan until the rhubarb had cooked through and broken down. Whilst it was cooling I used a hand mixer to beat one cup of caster sugar with one and a quarter cups of milk (in order to dissolve the sugar). Then I stirred in a 600ml bottle (nearly three cups!) of thickened cream. It’s not called ice-cream for nothing. Once the rhubarb had cooled I stirred that in too and added about three extra capfuls of rosewater. This was then transferred to the ice-cream machine for churning which took about thirty minutes. If you don’t have an ice-cream machine then I'm sorry, sucker! Once churned and a delightful pale pink, I popped it in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up. Served with strawberries, Master R pronounced it ‘a triumph’. Personally I think I was a tad heavy-handed with the rosewater and that it could have benefited from being served with a sharper fruit or possibly lemony or almondy biscuits. But they're for another day.