Now What?

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…

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