Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 12th


No wonder I had an urge to go all sarcastic in these essays; it's my only defense against the sheer emotion inherent in really writing them. I can only take so much delving down into everything that makes up the honest answer.

So, once again, I am writing a blog while also writing essays, while also playing Mahjong while also, just as an aside, eating apple pie.

Mmmm. Apple pie. It is, hands down, the best apple pie I ever made- not that I've made all that many. I mean, I'm not Betty Crocker.

I got the recipe off the internet; it's called Apple Pie by Grandma Ople. I was intrigued by the almost five thousand positive reviews it had garnered and the fact that it's flavor base was a syrup.

Naturally, when one makes a pie, one must make a crust. Unless one is cleverer than I, and has store bought, pre-made crust in the freezer. I would like to be that person, one of these days.

Instead, I was the person that had to look up yet another recipe for crust and then realize that if it was to chill in the fridge for four hours, and I was to make the pie before making the roast, I'd better get off my butt and start making the damn stuff.

So that's how found myself making pie crust at nine thirty in the morning, which is really far too early in the morning for that sort of endeavor.

If I had shortening, I would have used that instead of butter, as I hear it's an easier way to achieve a flaky crust, but I have no shortening in the house. (Somewhere in the south, a tiny southern cooking fairy innocently frying something just curled and died.)

So anyway, I had to work with butter. Apparently, brilliant forward strides have been made in terms of the perfect pie crust through the judicious use of a food processor, which keeps the butter cold and insures the perfect "rough crumb."

I am lagging behind general society in this area and was forced instead to cube and then mince my butter using a butcher's knife and a cutting board. It's like I'm in the dark ages of pie crust making. It was very smeary.

Then I had to further cut the butter into the flour and salt. I tried several different utensils, such as two knives. Has this method actually worked for anyone, anywhere? I see it recommended here and there, as an alternative to a food processor, but surely they jest.

In the end, I went with the whisk as my available utensil of choice, and a rough crumb of some kind was eventually achieved.

I then added tablespoons of ice cold water one at a time while tossing the crumb with a fork until I lost my patience and crammed the entire damp and crumbling mess into a ball by the force of sheer desperation, wrapped it in plastic and shut it up in the fridge so I could forget about the whole thing for a few hours and pretend that I was not making apple pie, not having guests over and not unequipped for both.

Three and a half hours later, I opened the fridge and confronted my fate in pastry. It was time to wrestle it into flattened submission without making it tougher and without having it crack apart into some monstrous shape not at all resembling a circle.

"Oh, that's just rolling it out," my father had said, so cavalierly, earlier in the day, when I had called him, originally to vent about something else.

Riiiiiight. Because rolling it out is the easy part. My dad (and my mom as well, and quite possibly some of my brothers... damn....) Anyway, just because possibly all of my immediately family might be able to make a perfect flaky pie crust blind folded and with one hand tied behind their back doesn't mean it's so easy for the rest of us! Some of us might be missing that particular gene.

I won't give a blow by blow account of what followed. Suffice to say one piece of dough made it roughly into the bottom of the pan and the other sort of made a kind of rectangle with some appendages that I figured I would cut into strips to make a lattice work top.

Because that the obvious thing to do when one is a complete pie making notice: to make a lattice work top. But that's what the recipe called for and at nine thirty in the morning when I printed it out, I was still high on caffeine and buoyant with hope.

The lattice was necessary because the syrup was poured through it into the waiting apples. This was what seemed fun and interesting when I read the recipe and what now appeared to be the worst idea ever in the history of pie.

Dutifully and with a sinking feeling, I peeled, cored and sliced eight apples. I poured them into the pie dish, making a slightly mounded pile. Or what I thought, in my opinion, constituted a pile slightly mounded.

How does one measure slightly mounded anyway? I assumed it was less than a mountain, but bit higher than a hill- something perhaps resembling the gradient of an ancient burial mound featured in such films as The Lord of the Rings.

It's these sorts of vague terms that contribute to the difficult of making pie, and the inappropriateness of the phrase "easy as pie."

Then I cut strips which I did not weave together. I figured if the guests were normal human beings and not paragons of the kitchen, the strips alone would be impressive. It would impress me.

In fact, I was impressed, even if the strips were somewhat wobbly. I thought, damn. A pie with a weave-looking pattern on top! Who even does this sort of thing anymore, other than grandmothers and the Amish? I rock.

So then I made the syrup. It smelled most deliciously of caramel and toasted butter. Things were definitely on the up and up, although I knew my whisk would never be the same again.

Much, much later in the evening, one of my guests sat down with a dish of pie.

"I have some bad news," he said to my husband. "Your wife is divorcing you and marrying me."

"The hell she is!" exclaimed Keith, looking up from the laptop with a shocked and horrified look.

"I might be twenty years too old," continued the guest, obliviously digging into his dish, "but I make more money and this is the best damn apple pie I ate in my life."

Keith did not think this was funny; not even a little bit. He looked like one of those German shepherds who are growling all over, hair on end, long teeth bared.

"Money means nothing to a woman like her!" my husband cried, gesturing to me. He gave his guest a scornful look. "That's what nobody understands. I'd kill any man tried to mess with my kitten."

This last bit got through to the guest, who, being a military man himself, apparently did not think the sentiment out of place.

Nothing more was said about my marrying anybody else, but I did get a lot of compliments on the pie.