By Orrin Farries

On a hot and humid July day on the outskirts of Offenburg, Germany, Richard Fromdabloque wandered into the deep bush and bramble of the Black Forest, not with full wit, but rather with a stomach full of a well-aged Merlot gifted to him by his cousin Maurice Fromdabloque. By the virtue of his drunkenness, Richard had lost his way, a fact that he found most disturbing after waking from a long-winded slumber. As he had slept right through the break of day, he had lost the sun to the top of the sky. Unawares of east from west, north from south, and home from hell, Richard realized he would be in a spot of terminal hunger, and as any sound man of stout proportions, he began filling his rucksack with rations from the ground, giving all the most suspect of foods a cursory taste-test to check if they were edible. Richard was not the smartest man. Richard had collected an entire rucksacks worth of shrooms, berries, nuts, and greens by the time the sun had made its way to set, giving Richard a frame of reference to head home, so he made his departure, taking rest once the forest was as black as its name. Before making his resting spot for the night, Richard grabbed from his bag this lovely stalk of red celery that he had found earlier in the day, and scarfed it down, noting its intense bitter flavour. So happy was Richard with his discovery, he grabbed a strawberry out of his rucksack, and wrapping it in the leaf of the red celery, he had himself a delightful little dessert.

Waking the next morning, Richard’s throat was sweltering hot, as was his mouth, as if he had been eating an exotic Indian curry throughout the night in his slumber. Rushing behind the nearest bush, Richard tried to relieve himself, his body stinging with hot, prickly pain, his eyes puffing up, distorting the landscape into a blurry, tear-filled abyss. Richard passed out from the pain, this time sleeping for a whole week before coming to again. Finally awake, weaker than a newborn lamb, Richard stumbled in the direction of the setting sun until he was intercepted by his brother Jacques Fromdabloque, who took him to his home and nursed him back to good health.

Jacques allowed Richard to take one of his horses to ride home on, Richard bade him good tidings and thanks for saving his life and departed for home. Just down the road from his house, Richard heard his wife screaming as if she were being attacked, and Richard dismounted his horse, grabbed the pitchfork from outside his home, and barged through the door, only to find his wife, the buxom Jenavive Fromdabloque, intimately engaged with the Milchmann. Richard was furious. However, as the Milchmann was the strongest man in the village, Richard knew it was suicide to physically confront the beast. So he pondered, and plotted, and planned a way to spoil the Milchmann.

Going back into the Black Forest, Richard gathered all of the red celery that he could, knowing that if a few small bites of it brought him to the brink of death, it would likely take a stronger dose to put down the Milchmann. Recalling the powerful bitter flavour of the stalk, Richard also gathered all of the strawberries he could find, knowing that he could coat the strong taste with the sweetness of the berries. With his wits about him this time, Richard went home, dismissive to his wife’s apologies, and began baking the poison pie that would sour his nemesis, the Milchmann. Richard spared no expenses, using his finest flour, the purest cane sugar, and of course, the ripest strawberries to veil the poisonous red celery. When the pie came out of his stone oven, Richard was pleased with it, for it was the most fantastic pie he had ever laid his eyes on. The floury lattice settled perfectly atop the mounds of strawberries and red celery chunks, and the smell was an infatuating perfume.

Richard invited the Milchmann in for a piece of pie after he had finished his morning deliveries, to which the Milchmann happily agreed. Sat across the table from Richard, and beside Jenavive, the Milchmann noshed down half the pie, before being offered to finish the rest. The Milchmann complied with great vigour. The Milchmann had declared it the single greatest pie he had ever eaten, and suggested to Richard that he enter it into the Autumnal festival, believing it to be a champion pie. A wry smile etched from ear to ear across Richard’s face, and he bid the Milchmann adieu, happy that the Milchmann had at least enjoyed his final meal.

Alas, the next day when Richard woke, he was very displeased to find that the Milchmann was still delivering his milk, perhaps with even greater vigor in his step. Later that evening Richard set off for the Black Forest, never to return. His wife who had watched him create the pie decided to name its key ingredient, the red celery, after the Milchmann’s true name, Rufus Barbara.

Jenavive Fromdabloque entered the pie into the Autumnal festival, and won a handful of ribbons and the reverence of her village community for her groundbreaking baked delight. Richard had watched from the edge of the nearby woods, and having seen his sweet Jenavive get carried off in the arms of the Milchmann, he wrote his last letter and jumped headfirst into the nearby quarry.

That, my friends, is how strawberry rhubarb pie came to be. So just know that the next time you are taking a bite of the succulent bittersweet pie, that underneath its baked soft exterior, is a dark and terrible history steeped in immeasurable sadness for one Richard Fromdabloque.

O.F.