On Strawberry Rhubarb Pie in Summer

The Gingham Inn’s Pie, Spirit Lake, Iowa

A few nights ago, in Omaha, we were treated to a dinner, our 2nd dinner out in the last year. It was so stimulating to be there! I’m still thinking about the conversation, atmosphere, and food, all casually elegant.

I passed on dessert until strawberry rhubarb was mentioned. I had to try it. This was the chef’s original version, not pie shaped, but somehow little bundles of strawberries and rhubarb and pastry scattered on the plate. The actual menu description was “STRAWBERRY RHUBARB TURNOVER, vanilla ice cream, almonds, mint”. Every bite was devoured and appreciated.

Mom always liked rhubarb. She tried to get her children to like it too.

“Here, try it raw”, she’d say, “dipped in sugar.” Not for me.

Then, she’d make a rhubarb sauce, like applesauce. Still, not for me.

“Maybe in a jam?” she’d offer us. No way.

“OK, then, how about strawberry rhubarb jam?” This I liked!

She may have even made a strawberry rhubarb pie, but I don’t especially remember that.

Last night, we picked up homemade pan fried chicken and sides (good gravy!) for the first time at The Gingham Inn, a take-out only place.

In Spirit Lake, IA

They had strawberry rhubarb pie on the menu. One piece came home with us. It was very good and fresh tasting!

On another summer’s day, on August 4, 2011, I wrote this about a visit to a small town Iowa cafe, and its strawberry rhubarb pie:

Driving to Lake Okoboji, I suggest that we stop in Odebolt, a town north of Denison, IA. I wanted to see the gorgeous bank building that I saw years ago. Back then, it was all boarded up, and piled with junk, as I saw through a window. Maybe now it had become a trendy, comfortable coffee shop.

Iowa Road Map

We get there and I see that it looks like a functioning bank. Dan very nicely parks the car so I can see it up close. As I open my car door, he rolls his eyes a little, wanting to keep going, I think. I explain that I have to see the inside!

Photo from Odebolt website.

It is gorgeously detailed, with gold-bronze metalwork, built in 1915 by a Chicago architectural firm. After closing in the 1930’s because of the Depression, and for several decades after, it was restored and recently put back into use.

During renovation, and an original image.

The next thing I want to find out is where we can have lunch in town. The teller says there’s a cafe on Main St. It’s one block away, so that’s where we go.

The farmers are leaving their boots outside, for a very good reason.

We go inside and I see the special on the board is strawberry rhubarb pie. I picture a fresh, 2 inch thick filling with a tender flaky crust. The waitress says there is one slice left.

“I’ll take it!” I say.

“Do you want that warmed up?”

“Yes, absolutely.” And the picture in my mind gets even more enticing.

“How about Cool Whip?”

“No, thank you”, I say, thinking how wonderful real whipped cream or ice cream would be.

Then, I ask, “Is it homemade?”

“Yes,” she says, and I can hardly wait!

Now she’s carrying it to me, and I am deflated. This little, thin piece with a thick, biscuit-like crust, and what looks like canned something or other filling is on my plate. Oh well, I’ll eat it.

But, when I took that first bite, I knew I would not eat another bite of the worst pie I’ve ever had.

Even my feelings of guilt over taking the last piece in the cafe could not make me finish it.

Dan has a saying about this: “A bad piece of pie is better than no piece of pie.” I disagree.

Life is too short.


4 thoughts on “On Strawberry Rhubarb Pie in Summer

  1. HaHa, enjoyed your story, Shirley.
    I’m with you on the cool Bank renovation! But I’m kinda with Dan with sweets. It’s ok with me if some sweets are better than others. Days
    are like that too, but I’m lucky to have them. (My family says I’m non-discerning.)

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Hi Linda, thanks for your comments. It actually is a good philosophy, in the big scheme of things!
      That bank has a good history. Built by a rancher, W.P.Adams, (who hired Graham, Burnham & Company-the architects of The Field Museum and Chicago’s Union Station). When it terminated, it was the only bank in the country to return all of its depositors cash.


  2. Hi Shirley, I always enjoy your stories. I am a pie lady. I grew up living next door to my Grandma who made pies and I picked up some of her skills. I agree with you on what a delicious piece of pie should taste like. My boys would ask for apple pie instead of a birthday cake. Keep stories coming.


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