Archive for Thursday, May 3, 2001

A slice of pie, contentment

May 3, 2001

I meant to work that afternoon; I really did. But it was my birthday so what the hey. I spent two hours in the office and took off like a cat out of the litter box.

I spun throughout the afternoon and went directly to Brewer's Price Chopper, where the pie tasting was going on. Aside from Hershey candy bars or a Wolferman's muffin with jam, I don't eat many sweets.

Once a year though, I do long for a lemon pie. When I was a youngster, my mother always made me a chocolate cake for my birthday. I would wait for her to bake it, always from scratch. When it was still warm from the oven, she cut a big slice, dabbed it with butter and set it before me, along with a glass of ice-cold milk.

I asked her once why she always made me chocolate cake. She looked at me like my brain had suddenly gone vacant or something. It was like an egg discussion we had had once. I asked her why she fried my egg hard with little frilly cooked edges around the white. This was the same answer. "Isn't that what you wanted," she asked.

"Well, frankly, I prefer pie." I knew this answer wouldn't go over big, that's probably why I never mentioned it before. My mother was an excellent cook and baker as well. So it was not because she couldn't or wouldn't bake pie. She didn't like to bake pies because my grandfather and I ate them for breakfast. She didn't mind us eating cake for breakfast, but she was opposed to our eating pie and drinking coffee for breakfast.

So one day, I finally told her I preferred pie. For several years, I had cherry pie for my birthday until one day she asked me just exactly what kind of pie I preferred. My grandfather had preferred cherry; she assumed I did as well. "Lemon," I said.

Lemon? She was surprised. She liked fixing lemon pie because she liked piling six inches of meringue on top, smartly peaked. A crust you could cut with a fork and it melted in your mouth, and zesty lemon that puckered your mouth. I never told her I preferred lemon cream to lemon meringue she wouldn't have believed me anyway.

Since her death, I have come by my yearly pie in a variety of ways. One year, a secretary baked me a pie, for several years a friend did and one year, I went to a restaurant. This year, I made up my mind to break the tradition. There wasn't anyone around anymore who could bake one anyway, so why not just give it up?

I confess I was feeling a little out of sorts about the whole thing. I was slumped in my chair one evening just before my birthday, sulking. I was reading The Chieftain, which always lifts my spirits, when I saw an ad for a pie tasting at Brewers and it was on my birthday.

Well, Honey, as Franny used to say, it was just what the doctor ordered. I had other celebrations that day as well, but in that moment of eating lemon pie, with a cup of coffee, overlooking the parking lot, in a town I call home, I couldn't have been more content.

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