Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pie Is Important

(Originally written 22 May 2010 for a friend who made a disastrous pie for a dinner party)

House of pies I bought a cheap plastic belt on clearance a while back. When I discovered that it was far too big, I brought it to our local cobbler to have it shortened. I was a little embarrassed to be paying more to have the belt fixed than I paid for it in the first place and I told the cobbler's wife (who looks every bit like you would imagine a cobbler's wife should) "I know it's just a cheap plastic belt, but I love it and I want to wear it." The cobbler's wife fixed me in her gaze and pointed the frightening tool she was holding at me. "Don't denigrate the belt" she bellowed. I found this so startling and delightful that it has become a household phrase for us when we want to remind each other of the importance of the seemingly trivial. Don't denigrate the belt. Don't denigrate the pie, either.
Pie is very important. There's the process: patient cutting of butter into flour and rolling of crusts just so, getting the filling to that perfect point of firmness and flavor. There's the word: pie (or "pah", as it should be pronounced almost always) that is so small and terse, yet so fun and round. It is a deceptively simple dish in its finished form, but quite complicated and mysterious to make correctly. Pie has accompanied alarmingly many turning points in my life: I split a piece of pie with a friend at Waffle House in Bowling Green, Kentucky one night (all night) that ended up being the beginning of a major shift in my life's course; Daniel and I ate many slices of pie at House of Pies in Houston, Texas while hashing out wedding plans and imagining our future; I ate pie at Bob Evans in Toledo, Ohio as my labor started for the birth of my first child; I ate pie with my dad in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas a week before he died; last summer I felt compelled to bake pie during a heatwave that nearly melted Seattle (I can hardly be blamed for this lack of judgment in timing. Blueberries were ridiculously on sale and Esquire that month featured a spread of Mary Louise Parker baking pie in her underwear and I just had to try it. The recipe. Not the underwear.) And now, pie is once again accompanying the two of us on this grand experiment. Additionally, Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn required pie for writing the State of the Union. 
Do not denigrate the pie, indeed.
Now that pie is put in its proper place, I will admit, I don't really like to eat pie and I'm somewhat befuddled as to why it seems to have accompanied so many things in my life. Perhaps it's because I was in a mood for change in the first place and would mark that mood with a bold "I shall order pie!" sort of stand. In all honesty, most pies are a little too sweet or a little too gooey for my taste and in the custardy ones I can frequently taste every single egg used in the preparation. Even good pies that I've eaten, none of them has just swept me off my feet and sent me into ecstatic utterances like some cakes or cookies have done. Maybe the pie has accompanied the turning points because my senses were so full of other things that I wanted a dessert that was reliably "meh". Perhaps it's simply a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc. I don't know.
So, full circle with the pie (tee hee). Take a large bite of that runny heavy-handed, lemon zesty turning-point pie and I will chew it virtually with you. I'll gulp it down with my cup of coffee and tell you "Yup, I've had better" and together we'll laugh and revel in the ability to look at something we've created and say "Whoa! That sucked!" and move gaily on, much the wiser. 

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