Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Zen of Making Pie

We missed Halloween. I don’t know how it happened. The pumpkins were hollowed out and ready to carve, the candy carefully stashed away so that I wouldn’t eat it. Maybe we were food-dazed from Eric’s parents’ visit. Maybe our town decided to have trick-or-treaters come out between 5 and 8 the day before Halloween. When we found out our mistake late that night, Eric carved out four pumpkins, lit them and set them on the porch. But it was too late. Not one teenager even bothered to smash them.

So it’s not a surprise that the pumpkin pie was a little belated as well. It’s also probably not a surprise that it was the worst pie I have ever made, even in my food experimentation days in college. I list my mistakes so that I might remember later, when I'm making the same mistake. Again.

Mistake #1: I rushed it.
I got the bright idea of starting the pie crust in the morning and didn’t get it finished before Eric’s parents picked us up for breakfast, so I threw it in the fridge. I continued with the project later that afternoon, but I was so busy talking to Hilarie that I didn’t notice that my buttery, flaky crust was now something closer to pancake batter.

Mistake #2: I didn’t trust my instincts.
I didn't listen when that little chef in my head told me that it was definitely not a good idea to try to make mini-pies in a cast-iron biscuit pan. Sure it'll work, I scoffed. What do you mean, my crust looks like pancake batter? My inner chef just shook his head in despair. 

Mistake #3: I wasn’t there.
Maybe fabulous master chefs can cook without thinking, but I have to be fully engaged in the creative process or it shows in the final product. It’s the closest thing to being completely in the moment that I’ll probably ever get, and it’s really true that all of my problems can be solved, at least temporarily, by conjuring up a good cheese sauce or a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookie. You have to make a commitment to what you’re cooking. It knows when you’re cheating on it.

Mistake #4: I didn’t have any fun.
I didn’t make the pie because I wanted it; I made it because I wanted to show Hilarie my great pie crust. There was no time for fun or creativity or playing around with ingredients. I was talking and thinking about the end result instead of watching what I was doing. The pies knew this, and turned themselves into orange hockey pucks.

I tried to tell myself it was good, even when I got sick later on that day. Eric tried a piece, said it was great, and put it down. I admitted my failure when the cat, who loves pumpkin pie and will often eat through Saran Wrap just to taste it,* looked at me like I was trying to poison him when I offered him a bite.

At least I can rely on the dog, although I'm not sure he even tasted it before it was in his stomach.**

*No animals were harmed during the creation of this blog. After the Saran Wrap incident, all pumpkin products (except this one, which was thrown in the trash) have been carefully stored in cat-proof containers. 
**Jor-El (the dog) snuck under the table and ate all the left-over pumpkin bits before Eric had even finished carving. He's got a stomach of steel.

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