Unfortunately, there’s no photo here…but one of my colleagues brought in a clip from the Sunday paper…and at first I didn’t believe that she looked all that much like me…but she’s been sitting here on my desk for awhile…and she’s sort of starting to freak me out now!
Monthly Archives: April 2007
So…I used to be completely obsessed with a candy bar – Take 5. It was quite literally one of the only things that would make me happy after a bad day at work sometimes (well…that or a stiff drink). I haven’t actually had many Take 5s (or “taken five” as we used to say at my old job) since moving on to the new one, but I was at CVS this weekend and saw a peanut butter version. And it was on sale. I couldn’t resist!
My verdict? Not bad…but the beauty of Take 5 is that it has a little bit of everything – pretzels, peanut butter, peanuts, caramel and chocolate. So, if you take away the chocolate…you lose a little something, methinks.
I have such fond memories of Take 5! I used to live in a horrible apartment in a horrible neighborhood with horrible (mostly) roommates…and we didn’t have TV. So…apparently there used to be a Take 5 commercial back then with a Take 5 jingle that one of my coworkers would sing to me on occasion. (He is the same coworker who would eat anything from the vending machines. Aww…)
And…I totally forgot about this until now! On 05/05/05, there was a Take 5 Giveaway…which was almost exactly two years ago now! (Aww…)
I also intended to make good on my key lime promise this weekend…and totally intended to blog about how I usually find recipes on epicurious.com, but there’s actually a key lime pie recipe in this cookbook my aunt compiled for me and my cousins a few Christmases ago (it’s actually called “Lisa’s Favorite Key Lime Pie” in this particular book) and so I was going to use that recipe…and since I don’t use a lot of “family” recipes, it was my intention to print it right here in this blog! But, unfortunately, I cannot find it…admittedly, my recipe collection is somewhat chaotic…but my parents are in town and so I did a LOT of cleaning this weekend…and yet I still cannot find the missing page from my recipe book. So…I may have to resort to epicurious.com again.
Speaking of visiting parents (the feint of heart are advised to skip ahead to the next paragraph), I really was cleaning a lot this weekend and decided to even attack behind my oven…and discovered a LOT of flour from my pie-making days. (Aww…)
And…there was a Saturday Night Live sketch this weekend with the two women from the Bronx who have a talk show and Amy Poehler was going on about how her daughter drank an entire bottle of creme de menthe and was “puking green all over the place.”
(If you recall, when *I* had to buy a bottle of creme de menthe, I could not find green and therefore my grasshopper pie was a strange color. Ergo, if I drank the whole bottle…)
(Interestingly enough, the host was Peyton Manning…who, if you also recall, was on the team I inadvertently supported during the bakeoff that started this entire blog…simply because there weren’t any other Colts fans around and I felt sorry for them.)
I also felt bad because I made peanut butter pies for my colleague, but didn’t bring whipped cream and they were kind of ugly without it (I offered him a free pie coupon this morning to make up for it)…and…my parents and I went to Peter Luger last night and I know I’m supposed to wax lyrical about the steak – which was certainly quite good, don’t get me wrong – but I also really, really liked the cheesecake! And – here’s my tie-in to the peanut butter pie sans whipped topping – when you order dessert there, they bring you a big ol‘ bowl of whipped cream. But they call it “schlag.”
(I got a free calendar from The Nature Conservancy though…so I can’t complain too much.)
And I had no idea there was a Please Pass the Pie Campaign to vote for official state pies! This, of course, means that I need to think of an official state pie for New York (I know, I know…time well spent). Vermont has already taken apple (which, if memory serves, was one of the trivia questions at the pie contest). But…picking apple for the Big Apple is too easy, isn’t it?
Hmm…I’m leaning toward chocolate cream…but I should probably have a better reason than “it was the first pie that came to mind.” (I’m trying to come up with something along the lines of…”the juxtaposition of black and white in this particular pie reflects a certain sophistication seen in the state itself.” THAT reminds me of a quote I saw recently while thumbing through an old yearbook. I went to school in Mississippi for a blip in time [What should the official state pie of 'Sippi be??]…and I went to a really small private school there. As such, the seniors got half a page each with their senior photo and baby pictures and a quote…and one of the quotes stood out to me this time. It’s a Dave Barry: “Here is a tip on how to get good grades on your English papers: never say anything about a book that anybody with any common sense would say. So, in your paper, you say Moby Dick is actually the Republic of Ireland. Your teacher, who is sick to death of reading papers and never liked Moby Dick anyway, will think you are enormously creative. If you can regularly come up with lunatic interpretations of simple stories, you should major in English.” This, of course, resonates with me on so many levels because I was an English major…and because I wrote Dave Barry in a moment of crisis when I was living in Fairbanks – his column was syndicated in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and I thought he had the perfect job – the ability to write about whatever you want on a daily basis…and he was kind enough to write me back about how “we all go through lean times.” So…my sophisticated chocolate cream pie logic sort of parallels Moby Dick and the Republic of Ireland, no?)
(It seems as if my “readership” has expanded by leaps and bounds as of late…so apologies if my tone was somewhat – ahem – stifled…as I’m a little nervous with all these new eyes on it…!)
Apparently there actually was a Mrs. Smith once. And she was feisty.
Last night I made a peanut butter pie for a colleague’s girlfriend’s nephew’s first birthday this weekend. He’s a BIG fan of whipped topping, so I have to find heavy cream tonight or my name is “Mud.”
I also have a commission for a banana cream pie in about two weeks (a repeat customer!)…and I still owe another friend a key lime pie. So…I shall bake again!
I had dinner with a friend last night who described my pie-contest-going as “ballsy.”
How do you like them – ahem – apples??
The day after the contest I realized how very much I must have been out of my league. But I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t know what I was up against because if I had, I probably wouldn’t have gone in the first place…and despite coming home without a Crisco gift basket, I’m really glad I went.
There’s a lot of good stuff that resulted from all of this…so I’m fairly certain it wasn’t just an expensive lesson in humility.
This has been such a wonderful project – something for me to really throw myself into and something that has given me a sense of purpose over the past few months. I think I’ve probably said this before, but it wasn’t until the night before judging (after my contest pies had been made) that I realized what a huge part of my life this had become.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, too: Pie People are really nice. When I registered on Saturday, a pregnant woman and her husband came into the room behind me. There were plenty of tables, so I was thinking to myself, “Please don’t put your pies down next to mine…” because, as I might have mentioned, social interaction is not my forte…but she did and she was super-nice and we chatted and it was just fine. (She was entering apple and sweet potato pies.) I kept running into this pregnant woman and her husband throughout the day…and, finally, right before the judging, she approached me and said, “Are you here by yourself?” and I had to admit that I was…so she asked, “Do you want to come stand with me and my husband?” and I did and they both were just so…nice. I tried to explain that I was from New York and so even though I had supporters back home, no one was able to make the trip with me…and she said they were from a small town about an hour away from Orlando. And even though I know very, very little about this pregnant woman and her husband from a small town an hour outside of Orlando, I couldn’t help but feel like under different circumstances, she and I would have been good friends. (I’ll be mortified if she Googles “Great American Pie Festival” and comes up with my blog and reads this and disagrees vehemently and says to her husband, “Hey – look – it’s that weird girl from the bake-off!”) My pregnant friend didn’t win anything either…and she said, “Well, we tried…” when the last Crisco gift basket had been handed out…so it’s just kind of neat that if it wasn’t for pie, I never would have met these people at all…(But it was a little embarrassing to think that they knew I came all that way and booked two separate hotels…seemingly for nothing. But that just further emphasizes that I have to write about it in some capacity or it’ll all be for naught…which makes a nice segue to another nice thing that resulted from all of this: now I have a writing project. And…I actually sketched out a children’s book awhile back on a similar theme – the new girl who makes a friend etc., etc. – so perhaps there’s potential there, too.)
And my friends and coworkers turned out to be a really nice support network…
And now I have more courage to experiment with recipes (I was making a lasagna on Sunday that called for no-bake noodles but then said to soak them before using them which I thought was ridiculous since the whole point of no-bake noodles is that you don’t have to put them in water, so I did it my way…I also couldn’t find the right kind of cheese, but forged bravely ahead with another…). And, while I was in Orlando, I submitted my Pillsbury Bakeoff recipe – which I created myself. I’ll hear back on or around September 30. And now that I am a seasoned bakeoff veteran…I have high hopes!
And, you know, I can’t possibly be too hard on myself for coming home without a prize since all of the women (and one man!) who won were a lifetime ahead of me: most of them were grandmothers…and most of them won prizes in multiple categories which leads me to believe most of them knew what they were doing. One woman won 1st place in two categories (among a slew of other second- and third-place finishes) and every time they announced her name, she started crying and her husband went nuts, standing up and jumping up and down cheering for her. It was really sweet…
I’m afraid I don’t remember the category, but one pie champ actually went by the name “Rain Goddess.” My pregnant friend’s husband said he remembered seeing her on the Food Network last year…so I guess I should bite my tongue as Rain must be one heck of a baker. (But…really? Could that possibly be her god-given name? Or a fluke of marriage??)
The grand prize went to a woman with a strawberry cream cheese concoction…but, again, the whole thing was kind of surreal and so I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have, I suppose…but hopefully the American Pie Council will update its website with the 2007 winners soon. (She looked genuinely shocked…it was also kind of sweet.)
As I was unpacking, I came across some of the free stuff I collected over the weekend, including recipe booklets, olive oil, nonstick cooking spray and some cards advertising the movie, “Waitress.” (Not surprisingly, they were pushing that movie – and its tag line, “If only life were as easy as pie” – pretty hard at the pie fest…there was even a free screening last night at the movie theater where I parked). One of the cards had a picture of a chocolate cream pie that had some sort of amorous connotation – “Falling in Love Chocolate Cream Pie,” perhaps. (I say this as if I don’t remember it verbatim…when in fact I obviously do.)
This will sound crazy, I’m sure, but I used to have a roommate who was really into feng shui and who explained to me that different parts in your home supposedly affect different parts of your life, including “love and marriage.” At the time, I had a framed autograph/photograph montage of my beloved Javier Lopez in the “love and marriage” section of my room and so this ex-roommate convinced me to move it elsewhere in order to prevent Javy from “stifling” my romantic future and blocking any suitors. She swore she just hung up some pictures of Paris in hers and a little blonde boy in her acting class was instantly smitten. But nothing ever happened despite my efforts to tweak the heck out of it (although, admittedly, I never used photos of Paris…) so I gave up eventually…but periodically I give it a go again…just in case. (Another friend was telling me [back when I lived in that old apartment] that it was bad to have my bed underneath a window because it means my soul goes out the window at night…and I said, “Wow, Peebs, I didn’t know you knew so much about feng shui.” His response? “It sounds like we’re on a bad first date.”)
So…long story short, the love and marriage section in my current apartment is actually my kitchen and so I had this picture of a pie – Falling in Love Chocolate Cream Pie – that’s supposed to be, you know, romantic, so as tacky as it sounds to put a movie card in your kitchen, I was trying to think of a way to somehow breezily incorporate it into the love and marriage section of my apartment – just in case…so I was holding it up…and then it somehow slipped out of my hand and slid under a crack between the wall and the cabinet and now it’s gone forever. So…I’m not sure if the universe will smile upon me and give me credit for it anyway…but, technically speaking, it is in the love and marriage section of my home even if it is not visible to the naked eye. But, then again, if moving Javier Lopez didn’t do it, I probably shouldn’t put too much stock in the power of Keri Russell’s new movie to prevent me from dying alone.
Another old roommate – in the same apartment as Feng Shui, actually – worked at the theater showcasing the Neil LaBute play, Fat Pig…which, you may recall, starred Ms. Russell and Pretty in Pink’s Andrew McCarthy. This roommate got me an ushering gig one night so I got to see the show for free, but I had to show up super-early and I was standing in the aisle when Andrew McCarthy walked in with a baseball cap and said, “Hey – how’s it going?” And even though he’s a zillion years older than me and Molly Ringwald has the worst dress ever in that movie, it’s still such a sweet ending…so I swooned a little bit – “Andrew McCarthy said hi to me!” Sometimes I wonder whether or not New York is right for me…but that was one of those moments that made me really excited about being here.
I realize I’ve veered away from baking pretty substantially…but what exactly does one blog about post-4/21? Feng shui and Keri Russell apparently…
Dropping off the pie on Saturday morning was a little nerve-wracking – it was, after all, the culmination of three months of baking and really the climax of my story. I arrived around 8:30 (remembering, of course, that bakers are known for getting up early and so perhaps the 6:30 registration time wasn’t so ridiculous after all)…which meant I was actually the very last “amateur baker” to receive a free pie plate upon registration. A very nice volunteer then helped me carry my spoils to a little room where I was given two American flag toothpicks with randomly assigned numbers to place in the middle of each pie (I was afraid piercing the crust would cause it to crack…but happily my crusts retained their shape). And…off they went to be judged.
I milled around for a bit (there was a brunch upstairs in the “Kilimanjaro Room,” but I always feel awkward at events like that…so I skipped it). And I should confess…while Friday I was perfectly content by myself, Saturday would have been a nice day to have some company. The Great American Pie Festival didn’t begin until 11:00…which meant there was a lot of time to kill.
I went back to the front desk to see if I could check in again (I was returning from the hotel that had the oven…), but my front desk buddy, David from Brazil, said he didn’t have any rooms yet…so I had to find something else to do with myself.
Despite my anxiety, however, there were still some quirky little pie-themed moments that I enjoyed…
There was a man with a new grandson who had the baby’s face printed on a polo shirt and the words “Sweet as Pie” above.
(I saw my friend Linda the baker from the elevator …but she was wearing a risqué swimsuit and so I no longer felt we were kindred spirits…)
A few other observations: Pie People are really nice. (There was video loop in the baking/pie display room with a woman from the contest last year proclaiming, “These are my people! The Pie People!” There was also a woman in the video from Iowa who had her pie stuff shipped to the hotel…which I thought was pretty smart alternative to the 62-pound suitcase…)
There were a LOT of people from the Midwest. Especially Michigan (remember the Apple Queen?), Minnesota and, as I mentioned above, Iowa.
And…maybe if I had cable I would have recognized him, but there was a celebrity chef baking a meringue (Michael Something-or-Rather?), so I sort of watched him in action for awhile and tried to soak up some of his celebrity chef vibes.
But there’s only so much celebrity chef-gazing and pie-observing one can do in a given morning, I found…so I decided to head over to Celebration for the Great American Pie Festival as to not miss the opening ceremony. The program listed events every hour on the hour, so I assumed it was theoretically possible for me to spend all day at the Great American Pie Festival. (But, one such event was “Pie Flying Juggler, Kerry Silson,” and of Mr. Silson I was somewhat dubious.)
Celebration was an easy drive – just a straight shot on I-4 West – which was a good thing since I get so nervous driving around in foreign places (although I do really love driving around by myself listening to music I would never actually admit to listening to with anyone around…and I don’t get a chance to do that very often). I followed all the signs to Celebration but took a wrong turn once I arrived at the outskirts, so I went on a detour and got to see Celebration High School. Once I got back in the right direction, I saw a lot of new homes and electric cars. I wasn’t *exactly* sure where to find “Lakeside Park” (where all the festivities were taking place), but I assumed Celebration was a small enough place that eventually the park would present itself. Signs proclaiming, “Disney Liquidation Sale Straight Ahead!” made me laugh…but, sadly, there were no signs announcing the Great American Pie Festival in the same direction. I started getting worried when I reached what I presumed was the center of town and traffic was moving at a snail’s pace down one (Main?) street and there were no parking spaces and I didn’t know if I was going the right way or not…but then I turned down a random street – more out of fear of blowing right through Celebration than anything else – and fate smiled upon me and I saw a “Great American Pie Festival” banner. Then I got really, really lucky and found a parking space in the movie theater parking lot and made my way into the festival.
Lou Galterio, who was actually described as a “professional singer” in his festival intro, sang the national anthem and then took the honorary first bite of pie – which was key lime, of course.
Next came the baton twirlers and the little girls who did choreographed dance routines with pie tins – all to pie music. (Ever heard of Jay and the Techniques before? I hadn’t…but have to admit that “Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” song of theirs is awfully catchy…) I don’t know much about baton-twirling, so pardon my ignorance…but I also thought it was kind of funny when their leader began, “One thing I like about coaching baton…”
As I was actually participating in the bake-off, I received two complimentary tickets to the Never-Ending Pie Buffet…and it just so happens that there was also a luxury car show in Celebration on Saturday with lots of men milling about, getting their photos taken next to fancy cars and “DJ Joel” spinning family-friendly favorites. Since I wasn’t in New York anymore and the male-female ratio was presumably less out of whack, I was laughing to myself as I wandered through the car show about finding an attendee that struck my fancy and then luring him away with my extra ticket to the Never-Ending Pie Buffet (maybe one gets a little delirious when attending bake-offs alone?). But, no, I did not embarrass myself by trying to see if it was actually possible…and returned to the pie festival solo.
Food Network alum Dionna Hurt gave a presentation on how to make the perfect pie crust, but I found there was too much Crisco propaganda. She did have some good tips though: for instance, I didn’t actually realize that you don’t have to put flour on the silpat liner (she swears nothing will stick to it – ever); and I didn’t know the difference between convection and non-convection ovens…which explains why my pies cooked so much faster at the hotel. A convection oven, Hurt says, has heat that circulates and so pies will bake faster (my hotel oven had a convection oven). My oven at home, however, must be a non-convection oven that has heat that comes up from the bottom. She also talked about oven “personalities” which I totally blogged about before sitting in on her presentation – how about that? She was big on chilling dough and folding it in half and then half again before putting it into the pie pan…but I’m not sure if she made a believer out of me on those last two points.
The festival also had a pie-eating contest, pie-juggling (remember Kerry Silson?), and, yes, even pie-in-the-face.
Pie trivia included questions on the pie bird, National Pie Day…and which flavor pie can cure a headache (it’s cherry).
But soon it became clear that I was going to have a really hard time spending the rest of the afternoon marooned at the pie festival…and even though I was reluctant to give up that parking place at the movie theater, I decided to go back to the hotel to check in and then maybe check out one of the Orlando landmarks on my list before returning to Celebration for the awards ceremony at 6:45. My front desk buddy, David from Brazil, did actually have a room for me this time…but I was feeling kind of funny that afternoon and so I wasn’t able to keep up any semblance of witty banter with him. I’m not quite sure what was wrong with me – I guess I was a little bit lonely and a little bit sad that this project was almost over and a little bit uncertain about what to do with myself…both that afternoon and upon my return to New York sans pie project.
So…I called my mother and got a little pep talk and then drove to that mall with the birthday tiles because it was pretty close and I was nervous about not being able to find parking in Celebration again, so I wanted to allow plenty of time, etc., etc. But, since my birthday is not divisible by 5, the birthday tiles were kind of a disappointment. Had I been born a day earlier (or four days later), it might have been ever so slightly more thrilling. I wandered around the mall…but it was mostly some pretty highbrow stores and so I left empty-handed, ready to return to Celebration to finally find out if I had what it takes to be a pie champ.
I started to “blog” about my experiences this weekend, but it turned into a 5000-word manifesto…so I need to break it down into bite-sized chunks as I don’t honestly believe anyone will indulge me that much.
Suffice it to say that the contest was pretty intense and I was wholly and completely out of my league. I’m really glad I went though – and I probably wouldn’t have gone had I known what I was getting myself into. But I met a lot of really nice people and I have a TON of material to write about…so I think I can still make good use of this experience.
I also have some photos to upload…and as soon as I find a place to do that (perhaps covertly at work later today?), I will pass those as long as well. So…stay tuned!
I also have to figure out what to blog about now that pies are in the past…