Technically speaking, Strawberry Rhubarb was the next pie on my list, but rhubarb was kind of hard to come by and so I settled on a close second – Shoofly. This was actually a Pants request (and I’ve been singing “fly’s in the buttermilk…” ever since). I could have sworn that Shoofly pie was Southern in origin, but The Joy of Cooking says it’s Pennsylvania Dutch.
And this, of course, immediately sends me down Memory Lane and makes me think of Florence. When I was in high school (in Georgia), I used to volunteer at a nursing home. I’d go once a week and visit with residents and try to talk them into playing Bingo with me. Florence was one of my favorites. Every week, she’d say the same thing: “I’m Pennsylvania Dutch. I’m a registered nurse. My daughter, Skippy, is a real beauty. My son, Todd, likes to travel.”
I heard this so many times that I will forever associate Florence with all things Pennsylvania Dutch (even funnel cakes at the state fair…).
Florence was one of the more sociable residents. Some were a bit harder to coax out of their rooms. One such resident was Irene. I knocked on her door once to try to get her to play with us. And when she told me to come in, I was shocked to find her walls were adorned with Travis Tritt posters.
My delicate inquiry? “So, Irene, are you a big country music fan?”
Her response? “No! That’s my nephew!”
And, sure enough – one of her pictures was signed, “To Auntie Irene. Love, Travis.”
How about that?
Speaking of state fairs (remember?) Pants actually suggested once (perhaps not in complete seriousness) that I should spend a year going to all 50 state fairs and entering pies in all of them. Afterward, I could write a book, she said. But then another friend let me borrow American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America’s Backroads which is a fairly similar concept. (I actually had an epiphany this weekend about a children’s book and spent some time sketching out some ideas to make it happen. Think “Ode to the Pie Crust Shield,” but with zany characters and a moral at the end.)
Coincidentally, I was also looking for a copy of The Writer’s Market this weekend so I can start pitching pie-related stories. The bookstore in my neighborhood didn’t actually have what I was looking for, but I couldn’t leave empty-handed, so I ended up buying a book called simply, Pie, after seeing what seemed to me to be a better recipe for Shoofly pie than what The Joy of Cooking had to offer (more spices and stuff – it seemed more interesting). I haven’t had time to sit down with Pie properly, but I’m also really excited about Ken Haedrick’s “Required Reading: What it Takes to Make the Perfect Pie” and his notion of mise en place (everything in its place) when it comes to preparing to bake. I actually do everything he says you should do except measure all the ingredients out ahead of time. (Although, to be fair, I usually panic at some point while reading a recipe beforehand and have to tell myself to just take it one step at a time.) I can see measuring everything out ahead of time if I had my own cooking show. But it’s just me and I don’t have an endless supply of measuring cups, etc. So I think I’m going to stick to my tried-and-true method of pie prep for now. (Flipping through I noticed he also has “Fun Facts” about stuff like pecans…so I think I’m really going to like this book. I ended up ordering The Writer’s Market online…and while I was at it, I also purchased The Pie and Pastry Bible as I’ve had a gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket since Christmas.)
(I was doing a bit of research before even purchasing Pie and trying to find a good Strawberry Rhubarb replacement [before it dawned on me that Shoofly was just what the doctor ordered] and found that my Saucepans & the Single Girl book has not one but TWO recipes for savory pies. One is Quiche Lorraine (does that count as a pie?) and the other is called “Beer Hall Pie” which kind of sounds like a meatloaf with crust.)
Where were we? I went to the grocery store armed with Pie and began searching for molasses. Did you know that in addition to unsulphered molasses they also sell robust molasses? (The recipe called for light molasses and the back of the robust jar said it was darker in color, so I opted for unsulphered even though I have no idea what that actually means.) And – for you trivia fiends out there – a friend alerted me to the Boston Molasses Disaster when I was talking about using molasses this weekend. I had no idea!
My verdict on molasses? It smells kind of funny and it poured curiously fast. (Isn’t molasses supposed to be slow?) And there was a crazy scientific reaction when I added baking soda – it all started bubbling up. And The Joy of Cooking calls for dark brown sugar…but Haedrick’s recipe uses light. So I had to use dark brown sugar in Haedrick’s recipe and could very well have screwed it up completely.
Haedrick also calls for refrigerating your crust, but I never do that so I didn’t listen to him. I did have a hard time pinching the edges (I never make a single crust…so I’m used to having a top layer to cover up an ugly bottom layer), so perhaps I shouldn’t have been so cocky after all.
AND…this time I got to use my pastry blender for the crust and the filling. That’s never happened before!
Haedrick also says you’re supposed to spin the pie 180 degrees after it’s only been in the oven for 10 minutes and that was not an easy task. It was hot…the middle was jiggly…
I haven’t actually tried it yet (I brought it into work as people will eat anything), but my final verdict is that this is not a pie that is going to win any beauty contests. (But perhaps Miss Congeniality is still a possibility?? Har, har, har…)
And, just as a sidenote, I went rollerskating at the Roxy on Friday (for the first time since my 7th birthday party?) and was making small talk with a friend of a friend who I don’t know very well. I mentioned baking. His response? “I have an engagement ring at home.”
It’s not actually the first time I’ve gotten a proposal like that. I had to call this one off shortly thereafter, however, because my “fiancee” said I’d have to do his dishes first. And it’s kind of funny – while I was baking I was listening to “The Sound of Young America” on NPR and the host was interviewing British comedian Jimmy Carr. They played bits from his act. One part went a little something like this: “Men fantasize about having two women…one to cook and one to clean.” And I guess there was a horrified woman in the audience because Carr’s next comment was, “Oh, don’t worry, madam, it’s postmodern misogyny.”
So, fingers crossed my ex-fiancee is a postmodern misogynist as well, I guess. He does something with commercials and said that he envisioned a commercial for me with lots and lots of pie-throwing…until someone gets to one of my pies and then everyone stops in their tracks and says, “We can’t throw that. It’s an LL pie.”
Not bad, eh?