Tag Archives: National Pie Day

Going — Pardon Me — Bananas

Well, folks, I’m coming to realize that writing about food doesn’t bring me nearly as much joy as it used to…or maybe it’s that I’ve come to embrace self-involvement and can finally admit that writing about myself is much more enjoyable.

Either way, it’s been a long time since I’ve written about food — and only food. So…any of you old school Tasty Lacy’s fans who are still with me — and have disapproved of recent off-topic jaunts — will hopefully find solace in the following paragraphs.

Last Saturday — January 23 — was National Pie Day. So, yes, this post is very much belated. But…it’s still coming in with plenty of time for Pi Day on March 14 — you still have about six weeks to prepare. And…because I still feel guilty nearly a year later for stiffing the woman who bet on my pie lesson at the Social Media for Social Change auction last April, I wanted to humbly offer up some Pie Tips — or what I envision I would have passed on to her during that lesson she never received.

So, without further ado: All My Secrets That Are Too Late For Pie Day, But Are Just in Time for Pi Day…

1. Make sure the water you use for your crust is ice-cold. Some books/experts will tell you to refrigerate your crust before you roll it out. I say don’t bother. Instead, I just make measuring out the water my first step and throw in a couple of ice cubes while I’m at it and let it get nice and cold while I’m measuring flour and Crisco. That’s it.

2. Invest in a pastry blender if you don’t already have one. This may gross out some of you, but I really like to use my hands when mixing a crust…and I’ve found it’s a lot easier if you mix the flour/Crisco with a pastry blender first to get it started…and *then* use your hands to finish it and get those nice flaky bits. Besides, your hands are going to get gross and Crisc0-y when you roll it out anyway…so I figure you might as well dig in early on. But only after using a pastry blender or it’ll take you forever.

3. A pie crust shield will change your life. Sure, you can use strips of foil over and over again. But…it’s not very green *and*, quite frankly, it’s a pain in the ass to fold those stupid strips over each other and to get them to stay put. And then you have to be uber-careful when putting the pie in the oven because you don’t want one of those delicate strips to fall off. So…I say, “Screw the strips!” and you should cough up the — ahem — dough for a pie crust shield that you can just throw on top of pies time and time again.

That’s basically it. I wish I had more tricks up my sleeve…but, to be honest, I really think the secret to making good pies is a lot of practice. My aunt makes the most beautiful pies…and she’s been making them for years. I hope that if I keep this up that I’ll, for example, eventually be able to roll out a top crust and place it over the bottom crust and pinch the edges and not have any excess on the sides. I think in pie terms, that’s the sign that you’ve truly made it.

But, sadly (or not so much…), I didn’t actually make a regular crust for NPD 2010. (And, despite my earlier assertion that it’s really all about me and, “To heck with food blogging!”, I *would* like to do an experiment and compare a Crisco crust to a lard crust. I think it would be fascinating! Honestly. And maybe it’ll be a good project for 3/14. We’ll see.)

In the meantime…I knew there was no way I could possibly recreate the magic of NPD 2009 — thanks, in part, to Franimate, Social Medium and Half-Man/Half-Press-Release — so, as I noted in my “Come Celebrate NPD 2010 with Me”-email (and maybe even in my last blog post?), I was on the fence about celebrating this year…but I ultimately decided I’d regret it if I didn’t. And, plus, I’m on this big traditions kick, and it would make me very much a hypocrite if I let the opportunity to firmly establish a yearly pie tradition pass me by. So. I decided to make Emeril’s banana cream pie (while my folks were driving back from Tennessee, they stopped at a restaurant — I guess one of Emeril’s in Florida, Mississippi or Louisiana [thanks to Popeye’s, I heard, “Louisiana…Fast!” in my head as I typed that] — and couldn’t get his banana cream pie and it was supposed to be the best banana cream pie ever and my mom was really disappointed). And…it turns out that Emeril’s banana cream pie has a graham cracker crust.

A quick review: This is one damn good pie. And I find that I say that every time I have to make my own pudding…which begs the question why I don’t make my own pudding more often. It called for an awful lot of actual bananas cut up and placed ON the pudding…and I decided that it would be prettier if I made some whipped cream and whacked it on top and then gently flung caramel sauce across it…which was a good idea in theory…but my caramel sauce was a little too warm when I flung it and so it melted the whipped cream a bit…and, as per usual, the pie could have been prettier. But…it was good! So…no harm, no foul.

The problem *now* is that I have all these bananas left over…and so I was trying to dream up banana recipes to get rid of them. Normally I’d make banana bread, but my friend contributed a loaf to Pie Day…and so I was actually thinking about banana fritters for a bit. My mom used to make them when I was little. I have fond memories. There’s a banana fritters recipe in our family cookbook…and so, just out of curiosity, I asked my mother where she got it and she said it was actually my paternal grandmother’s…and I was still interested in learning more about fritters in general, so I Googled and they appear to be a Southern thing…or kind of Soul Food-y or Caribbean-y…or even something that hails from West Africa, according to Epicurious…which sort of surprised me. I have no idea where my Norwegian grandmother — who lived virtually her entire life in San Francisco — originally got the recipe.

But, after all that, I don’t think I’m going to make fritters…I have this hunch that it’s one of those things that was really great as a kid but that might be a little heavy for the Lisa of today to eat over and over again. Instead, I think those bananas are going to become filling for my favorite empanadas. So…in addition to a freelance piece and officially finishing my proposal (…knock on wood…), that’s what I’ll be making this afternoon…and consuming this week.

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Avoiding Post-AP English Syndrome, Using Expired Scone Mix, Descending Upon My Proposal Like a Beast, Going Through a Cream Phase…and Still Rooting For Team Melissa

Alright, so, I’ve been getting LOTS of amazing feedback…which, for a writer frequently plagued by self-doubt, is really wonderful to hear (although, folks, don’t be shy! Feel free to comment *right here* so, you know, any future employers/publishers can feel the love, too…)…although, in true LL style, it sort of worries me as I fear I’ll get Post-AP English Syndrome again…which, for those of you who haven’t known me since high school, is basically what happened after my AP English teacher told me I was a good writer and I went off to college and felt all sorts of pressure to *be* a good writer and it backfired and I’d spend weeks and weeks on individual papers and get Bs — Bs! — and, about a year later, I finally threw in the towel and said, “To heck with it! If I’m going to get Bs, I’m not going to spend weeks and weeks writing these damn things…” and I wrote a paper the night before it was due…and I was so, so embarrassed by the, you know, word-vomit that I turned in…and that very paper turned out to be the turning point and my professor asked me to stay after class because he thought I could get it published. End Writer’s Block.

So, long story short, I worry my blog will all of a sudden become crap and I will find myself incapable of writing about anything anymore if I let this go to my head and/or try to write anything that I think people will like. Although, in all fairness, Post-AP English Syndrome was — cringe — about ten years ago. So…perhaps I have matured since then. We’ll see.

I haven’t really cooked or baked anything since returning to New York to tackle the New Year (I *did* make eggnog scones from a mix that was given to me last Christmas(-ish) by the Luxury Spot…which were okay…and the only other things worth noting about it are: 1) I like the name of the bakery — Sticky Fingers — and would like to come up with something comparable for my book; and 2) the mix said it was best by 07/03/09, which I *assumed* meant merely that they would have turned out fluffier last summer and not that I would, you know, die after consuming them now…but I’m very much in starving artist mode, so I took a chance.

And, really, the past week has been all about the freelance scramble — drumming up projects, applying for jobs, working on the book proposal — which I absolutely HATE and which stresses me out even more than, you know, baseline…and I feel like I’m constantly working, but never really getting anywhere — there’s ALWAYS a pitch I could be writing or a job I could be applying for (…even if it doesn’t sound all that interesting…)…and there’s always some editing that could be done on my proposal…and, while we’re at it, there’s always some editing that could be done on my 90,000-word draft, too. And…I keep extending my proposal deadline to accommodate…but feel like if I do it any more, it will be 2011 and I’ll still be saying, “My proposal is almost done!” So…this week is it — I’ve given myself an ironclad deadline. No excuses. It’s going out to agents no matter what. (I had a little freakout when I realized that all agents seem to want something different — some want the first chapter, some want the first three…some want the first five to ten pages…some want the first four to seven…and here I’ve been working on a proposal that weighs in at about 100 pages now…and it sounds like I’m going to have to pick it apart — like some sort of vulture! — and cater it to each agent specifically…although a friend pointed out that the agents likely appear finicky just so, you know, they know that you’re really specifically sending it to *them* rather than just sending out a blanket email to see who will bite. [Although a blanket email with my 100-page proposal would be SO much easier…and yield a much faster sense of accomplishment! But…I guess if I’ve waited this long…])

So…simple math — 20 agents in five days. Totally doable. And then no more of this starving artist business with expired scone mix. Lisa Lacy is going places.

Annnd…there are really only two other bloggable things on my mind: National Pie Day and The Bachelor.

First things first, as noted, I’m poor…and I really can’t afford to bake 14 pies and a cobbler to celebrate January 23 in high style like I did last year. (I have also officially given up on Internet fame…) At the same time, I feel like I can’t let January 23 go by unnoticed (plus, I really like traditions…and wish my family had more. When I was in Chicago, I ended up crashing K’s family’s New Year’s Day homemade pizza party…which is something they’ve done every January 1 for the past 30-ish years…and I love stuff like that…)…but this then begs the question — if I’m only going to make ONE pie to acknowledge National Pie Day, what’s THE pie to make? I have my mother’s peeler/corer/slicer, but I feel like I’m over apple for the time being. And I still have cans of pumpkin…but I also feel like pumpkin is too blasé. I’m actually sort of feeling a lemon meringue or a banana cream might be nice — if not totally evocative of the pie genre as a whole. And this is after making a chocolate cream pie for Christmas…so maybe  it means I’m going through a cream phase. I don’t know — I’m open to suggestions. (And — ooh — hey, look: ANOTHER excuse to comment. Lucky!)

And…no good way to segue from cream pies to reality TV (I Googled — there isn’t…), but…I’ve totally been watching Jersey Shore because I’ve been working on a story about it (although, now that I think about it, I guess I’ve already mentioned it…but, since then, I learned that one of my J-school classmates totally interviewed Vinny when we were in RW1 together. It’s my six degrees of separation…)…but my other guilty TV pleasure is The Bachelor. And…I admit that I was genuinely into it in the Jason Mesnick era. I couldn’t believe DeAnna didn’t choose him and felt so sorry for him…but don’t even get me started on the whole Melissa/Molly debacle…and, I mean, sure — things have worked out really well for Melissa since then…and even though Jason looked like a big scumbag at the time, it probably *is* better that he followed his heart when he did, blah, blah, blah. But…I worry a little that maybe Melissa was so eager to show the world that she isn’t a Sad Sally that she jumped into this marriage with Tye. And I could be wrong — all I know about Melissa is what I’ve seen on ABC…but I also wonder if it says something about, you know, modern times (not Medieval Times) or whatever that she needs a husband to make it look like her life is complete and she can’t be independent with a successful career and hold her head up high on her own. *That* would be something. (Although, admittedly, it’s not an easy thing to do. Especially when Stupidface who let you go is right there with his new ladyfriend — who is clearly nowhere near as awesome as you are — and you have to smile through gritted teeth and tell them both how good it is to see them…even though all you really want to do is shoot laserbeams out of your eyes to vaporize them.) So, I mean, I wish Melissa and Tye the best…and I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a Charlie-Sheen-sort of situation. (I was *also* thinking about how Denise Richards must feel a little vindicated and/or be experiencing some good ol’ schadenfreude as news leaks about Charlie post-Christmas. I just hope Jason and Molly don’t find themselves in a similar position. Happy or not, I think they’re a little too smug.)

Okay — one more embarrassing paragraph on The Bachelor and we’re done. SO much to love this season…if not the Bachelor himself. He’s okay, I guess…but he didn’t really win any bonus points in my book for going back to warn Jillian about Love Don’t Come Easy. Seemed a little much to me…although I guess it established a nice segue for this season. Regardless…I totally thought the big scandal was that two *contestants* had hooked up in the house, drumming up all this girl-on-girl intrigue…and not just that one of the ladies had an affair with a crew member. Seems so droll in comparison…and I’m actually kind of surprised ABC hasn’t thought of a lesbian affair already. Perhaps next season. (“It’s okay, Jake, I swing both ways!” Can you imagine??) Back to the stuff I love: LOVE the tagline “On the Wings of Love.” (He’s a pilot! Get it?) I loved the plane flying over Jake’s head when he parked his motorcycle at the beach. I loved it when he said he’d never had 25 women fighting over him before and so seatbelts needed to be fastened. And I loved it when he threw the rose in the fire after learning of Rozlyn’s indiscretion. But the most memorable part was undoubtedly the Cambodian chick from Santa Rosa, Calif. (current home of Guy Fieri, former home of yours truly) who told Jake — first in Cambodian! — that he could park his plane on her landing strip any time. I mean, admittedly, you need to think of something to say that separates you from the pack — I get that. And I *might* be tempted to lead with my first and last name and a wink-wink with its pornographic implications…should I ever find myself getting out of a limo in an evening gown to meet the Bachelor on Episode 1. But…words fail, Channy. As much as I’d like to believe in the power of reality TV show love, I hope for her sake that the show is scripted and someone put her up to it.

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Sad(der) Lisa and the Case of the Missing Books

I’ll preface this by saying I know everyone is sick to death of hearing about the Bartender. And I know I need to figure out a way to finally, officially let go and move on with my life. And — other than the fact that his bar is right around the corner from where I live and I have to walk by it/him virtually every day — I don’t know why it’s over two months later and I’m still struggling. I guess part of it is that it was the first time I really thought I was on to something good in a long, long time…and he’s somebody I care about. A lot. It’s hard for me to just turn that off and pretend it never happened.

But…I bring him up again — for what I will (try to) promise will be the last time — for two reasons: (1) It always makes me feel better to write things out; and (2) I have found no one really gives a hoot when I blog about food anyway.

My oldest childhood friend will be here tomorrow…and we have several days to pal around in New York before Costa Rica on Thursday…and I am hopeful I will return from this adventure with a new lease on life. Maybe we can perform some sort of ritualistic exorcism that will make me forget he exists. And/or maybe the guy who cut my hair was right and in another week, my life will change forever — even on the man-front.

Until then, I will write, I guess.

There were MANY things the Bartender and I did not have in common. Politics was one of them. He claimed to be a Republican…but I think he was much more moderate than he let on. Let’s face it — I have pretty strong opinions about woman-y things and I really couldn’t stand to be around somebody who told me I should be seen and not heard and the like. Granted, he had a McCain/Palin poster in his apartment, but I think part of his conservative fervor was also that he wanted to set himself up as a counterpoint to the young, urban, liberal hipster archetype.

The Bartender was also very opinionated and liked to talk a lot. In fact, once he told me on my little red couch that he liked our conversations because we didn’t argue — we had friendly debates that made him think about things in new ways. (But I will have to watch myself when it comes to making comments like that or I’m going to get nostalgic.)

And…one of my J-school professors is really into social justice-y topics and wrote a book called, “Denison, Iowa,” on — you guessed it — a year in the life of this Midwestern town. I’m not Amazon, so this may not be an entirely accurate recollection, but, basically…my memory of it is that Denison‘s claim to fame is that it’s the birthplace of Donna Reed and so for many, many years it was this wholesome, traditional Midwestern town with wholesome, traditional Midwestern people and wholesome, traditional Midwestern values…and then a bunch of meatpacking plants popped up and immigrants started moving there for jobs and the social dynamics of the town changed considerably. So…my professor spent a year living there during this period of flux and sort of sat back and watched all these changes and the related drama. He illustrated it all with a number of characters in town like the young Latino guy who wanted to start his own business — and so there was all this intrigue about whether he would qualify for the loan in the end…and there was, like, a retired schoolteacher who had lived in Denison her entire life and who started teaching English classes at night…and there was also, like, the crooked cop who hated everyone who wasn’t white. That’s basically the gist.

And so — because the Bartender and I were allegedly on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I was curious what he’d think about this book. So…I let him borrow it. But…when I gave it to him, I said, “My professor wrote this, so I’d really like it back…” and then, half-jokingly, I added, “So, you know, if anything happens while you’re reading this and you decide you hate me and never want to see me again, will you please just, like, leave it in my mailbox or something? I really want it back.” And, of course, he looked at me with a big frowny face and said, “Nooo! That’s not going to happen! You worry too much!”

But sometimes the worrier is right and — sure enough — something happened and he decided that he hates me and never wants to see me again. But not before I let him borrow yet another book…which I’ve been saying is one of my favorites, but I’m not positive that’s entirely true. I just like it a lot and would like it back, too. And you’d better believe that even in the middle of our hours-long, tear-filled, “I don’t understand why you ‘can’t'”-goodbye, I let him know that I wanted those books back. He promised he’d get them to me. That was August 20.

I sent a reminder or two. Nothing.

Then…there was the whole end-of-birthday debacle in September.

So. I decided I would give him a good month-long cushion of no Lisa and then I would make one final plea for those books.

And — this is how crazy I am — both our final fight and my birthday are even-numbered days, so I thought, “Maybe if I wait until an odd day, I’ll have better luck!” Plus, November 5 is Javier Lopez‘s birthday and I figured I could, like, channel Javy for strength.

But before I actually had a chance to send him anything that day, lo and behold, I was on my way to meet the Greeting Card Emergency guy and I saw a man walking towards me with a Yankees hat and a cigarette and I thought, “Ohmygod, is that the Bartender?” and then he adjusted his backpack and I realized that, yes, it *was* him and so I got out my phone, but I had no new messages and then we passed by each other and had an eight-word conversation — “How are you?” “Fine. You?” “Fine.” “Books?” “Okay.” — and I turned the corner and my legs turned to jelly and I hyperventilated a little.

I got a new phone post-Bartender and his number is not in it. I had all these messages from him on the old one that I couldn’t bear to delete, but…my memory was full and so every time I’d get a new message it would say, “Memory Low! Delete messages now!” and I would say, “I don’t want to delete any messages!” and so my solution was to just get a new phone. No messages from him in there. No reminders of him.

But I still have that old phone. So…I figured there was no harm in retrieving his number and using the “use once” feature to send a message to that 347-number that I cannot save again. It was perfectly friendly — just to acknowledge that we’d seen each other and it was fine and — I know this is beating a dead horse, but — I’d really appreciate getting those books back.

So, later that very same day, I wrote him something along the lines of…”Hey — I hate to be a pain, but my professor wrote one of those books and the other is one of my favorites and it would mean a lot if I could get them back.” And that’s probably all a normal person would write, but I went on to say that besides making me really happy, I would imagine getting rid of the books would be cathartic and then he’d be free of it all and wouldn’t have any reminders of anything unhappy…and I said that I hoped all was well and that I seriously meant it because I never wanted anything but the best for him…and to prove that very point, I told him how happy I was that Pettitte pitched such a good game and that Matsui hit so well and the Yankees won, in part because I knew how happy it must have made him.

No response. No books.

So…I waited for another odd-numbered day (I hope I do not get, like, institutionalized for admitting that) and sent another message: “Please, T, please? Those books? I’m leaving the country on Thursday. Can I have them back before then?” (If I have to go pick them up at his bar, it would be great to have my oldest childhood friend there with me to figuratively hold my hand…)

But, again, nothing. Radio silence.

And, okay, I guess I have a reputation for being a clingy girl and understand that maybe he’s worried that responding will only fuel the fire and it’s easier to just press “delete” and pretend it never happened. But…it seems to me that the nice thing to do would be to say, “Okay,” or “Sure,” or SOMETHING — even leaving the books in my mailbox in the dark of night. After all, he gets off work at 4:00 AM on the weekends…

And I know I threw a lot of crazy his way, but I was also really good to him — I dropped off pie on National Pie Day because he had to work and couldn’t come to my celebration and I made him cheesecake and planned an elaborate dinner (with meat!) when he was hurt and out of work and poor and sick of eating rice and beans…and I sent him postcards from all of my travels this summer and I spent a small fortune on Yankees tickets for his birthday because he turned 30 and I wanted to do something big and because he hadn’t been to the new stadium and I wanted him to see it. And, you know, I did those things because I care about him and wanted to make him happy, not for future leverage in case I didn’t get my books back…and I was really happy to have somebody to care about and to be able to do those things for, you know? But I don’t understand how it could have devolved into this. My worst nightmare is someone saying, “I can’t love you,” and walking out the door and disappearing forever…and that’s exactly what happened.

I’m not holding out hope he’s going to knock on my freakishly small door and say, “I made a huge mistake!” But it seems pretty rotten to me to just ignore me. I could understand if I was texting him with, “I miss you! Please take me back!” or “Screw you, you manwhore! And give me back my goddamn books!”

But I’m not. I’m trying to be civil…and since I was the one who was so horribly hurt in this escapade, I thought being friendly and nice now would be kind of olive-branch-y, you know? Like, saying, “Yes, I know I was a huge mess the last time you saw me, but I’m basically okay now!”

So…last night, I was debating what to do…and then I got a call from an old coworker saying, “Hey! I just had dinner in your neighborhood — are you around?” So…I met him around the corner from my apartment and he said, “Where should we go?” and I said, “Anywhere but here!” and nodded toward the Bartender’s place. So…we walked up the street to another place…and we talked and caught up and drank…and he really likes my stories, so he always laughs and tells me how funny I am (last time he praised my comic timing — how about that??)…and I hadn’t seen him in awhile, so it was really nice. And…I don’t know how many beers later, I was telling him about trying to get my books back and we had already been out for a good, long time, so we were getting ready to leave…and as I was pointing him to the Subway, the neon lights at the Bartender’s bar shone brightly in the distance and I got all nostalgic and my old coworker said, “We should go in and have one last drink there!” and I said, “Oh, I don’t know…bad things happen when I go into that place…” and he said, “Come on — it’ll be good for you. And I’ll talk to him! I’ll help you get your books back!” And whenever I’m willing to go there, I should always remember that it means I am in no shape to be making decisions like that. But I agreed to go.

It wasn’t particularly crowded…so we were able to get two seats at the bar. The Bartender was behind the bar, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with me. He’s a pretty jealous guy…and, in hindsight, I realized I’ve always gone in there with girlfriends…and so I guess it could have looked like I was on a date or something and that I was rubbing it in his face.

He was wearing a Yankees World Series sweatshirt…so — see? I was right. He *was* really excited. And his stupid boss came out at one point and saw me there and was LOVING the fact that I was there with some guy and that the Bartender wouldn’t acknowledge me.

And, really, I’ve made a complete fool of myself at that place SO MANY times because of him. So they’ve  probably come to expect it of me. And, really, comparatively speaking, this time wasn’t that bad. I didn’t talk to the Bartender. But my old coworker did. And he came back to me and said, “You’ll get your books on Monday. But we should probably go now.”

And then I wanted to know what my old coworker had said and what the Bartender had said…and my old coworker was saying that, you know, he’s no good and I need to move on…blah, blah…and somehow I ended up crying on the sidewalk outside again and blathering on about how I don’t understand how you can just throw somebody away…and that he was always so good with my cat and that even when the little monster bit him, he’d be so patient and kind and call them “love bites,” and I feel like I’m depriving my cat of a father figure now…(see how much sense I was making?)

I’m very stubborn. I need to just accept that I’m never going to understand this and that I’ve already wasted too much energy trying to figure it out. And, I mean, some good came out of the Bartender situation — I was finally able to look at my life and what I actually have control over and realized how important it is to me to finish my book…and I’m so close! I’m almost there! And I know my poor little heart can’t go through something like this again…so next time I have to be really, really careful and — like my friend says — protect it.

I just feel a little more sad than usual today about the whole situation. And it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get these books back. But I don’t understand why things are the way that they are…and how caring about him became this horrible, unforgivable thing…for which I have now been banned from his life.

So…even after that makeover, I’m not sure if I really am New Lisa after all. I am hoping that Costa Rica and my oldest childhood friend will change that. (And, if nothing else, I will try to find solace in knowing that my hair looked damn good last night.)

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Filed under Alaska, baseball, birthdays, books, Brooklyn, cheesecake, feminism, Iowa, Javy, Palin, pie

The Curious Case of the Spinach Dip…and Pi(e) Day 2.0

So…Friday I curled my hair and the social media world freaked out a little and then I technically crashed a birthday party.

At said party, there was a variety of snack foods…including spinach dip that tasted *exactly* like French onion soup (holla at my cousin Kirstin!). I was at a table with a tattooed gentleman from Florida who had previously run into the place, yelling, “I just saw My Bloody Valentine in 3-D and it was awesome!”

As we sat there making small talk, I said, “My goodness! This tastes exactly like French onion soup!”

He tried it, agreed, and said, “Maybe it’s the cheese.”

I gently suggested it probably *wasn’t* as cheese tends to have more of a universal taste…but my best guess was it was onions and/or spices. Then along came a lady who said she thought it was Lipton onion soup mix. Mystery solved? I thought about conducting an experiment this weekend…but, alas, time flew by…and dip and French onion soup seemed kind of dangerous to have on hand anyway.

This birthday venue — Choice Kitchen & Cocktails — *also* happens to be the place where I believe I will be hosting a pre-Pi(e) Day party on March 13 (March 14 is 3.14 — get it?). So…mark your calendars!

Choice is perhaps a little further away (for most) than Greenwich Village Bistro, but there’s a lot more room and there’s a private bar and a fireplace and a giant TV where I could have a pie photo slideshow and include fun pie facts…and who knows what!

I get the feeling this Pi(e) Day will have a much different feel than last time. And then that’s it until at least July 22 (22/7), so…all aboard!

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Delicious Mayhem.

I make more to-do lists than I, well, know what to do with. It sort of makes me feel better to start off a day knowing what I *have* to do and what I *should* do so I can adjust accordingly to try to squeeze in as much stuff as humanly possible.

The last two weeks have been doozies. Don’t get me wrong — I’m really happy to be so busy…but filling in for publications in New York and London meant I was working some pretty zany hours. So…believe me when I say that blogging about preparations for National Pie Day (and the day itself!) was on my list allll week. Unfortunately, I just haven’t gotten to it until now.

So, without further ado…let’s pick up where I left off:

Day #3 of Pie Week.

This was officially Pickle Pie Day. I wanted to do the cobbler as well, but I didn’t take the peaches out of the freezer to defrost early enough…

After everything, I gotta say pickle pie looked a LOT like pumpkin pie. It was well-received by everyone who tried it (and I baked 14 pies for them…so it damn well should have been, or they really *would* have been some ungrateful bastids [me with a Boston accent]). It had sort of a gooey middle part…so I guess I didn’t cook it long enough…but the top sure looked done and I didn’t want to risk burning it. (In fact, several people asked what the middle layer *was* and I had to confess that it was all the same thing…) It would be interesting to try again, I suppose…though there weren’t a lot of recipes out there for this thing. Not a single one in any of my pie books…though I guess that isn’t all that surprising.

By Day #4, things were really getting serious. Only one more day until the *actual* Pie Day. I was up at 4:30 to write about European retail asset management…which was a good thing as I had a LOT of baking to do.

First thing? The cobbler that didn’t happen the night before. And I cranked that sucker out in no time.

I *finally* used the Sur La Table gift card Auntie Leslie gave me for Christmas 2007 to purchase a fluted pastry wheel (When I told Carmen I had to go to Sur La Table to buy a fluted pastry wheel, she got that look she gets when I am speaking Greek to her. Oh, how different we are…and yet I love that ridiculous broad.) as I kind of love lattice crusts…and the first lattice crust I attempted was this summer for a housewarming party but I just used a knife and I felt it was missing a certain je nais se quois. With the pastry wheel, however, the strips were almost perfect (Carmen would say, “Perfecto”) except that one was *slightly* thinner than the others. I decided that would be the strip that went in the center and I could pretend that it was some sort of purposeful artistic move.

Then somehow the day got away from me. I had some deadlines, sure, but I don’t know what else happened because all of a sudden it was super-late. I was *supposed* to go to a taping of the Daily Show, but I had to be a jerk and write the guy and ask him if he’d hate me if I bailed out. He understood…but then I felt guilty, so I decided to add a banana cream pie to my list to make it up to him. (Which I ended up making around 2:00 am because I am crazy…and then I was up again at 5 [oops — overslept a little] to write about asset management again…and Thain had just been forced to resign, so every paper in America had something to say about it and it was a loooong one to summarize. [As Franimate would say: le sigh.])

Both the chocolate cream pie and the banana cream pie required making my own pudding. It’s safe to say I’ve never made so much pudding in my whole damn life. And — you know what? It’s good stuff. And it’s not even that hard. I don’t know why I don’t ever think to make it when I’m not making a pie. Eggs, cream, cream of tartar…maybe some vanilla? Cook on stove. Strain. Bada boom.

Even though I was making it to make it up to the guy (who then bailed on *me* on Pie Day because he had a headache…making me feel very much like a husband in a bygone era who just asked his wife if she was in the mood) and there really was no pressure in real life, I guess I felt some in my head…and the crust was an absolute disaster. I used way too many graham crackers and not enough bananas or butter…and so even though I tried to push the crust up the sides of the springform pan, it just sort of sunk into the middle and was really, really ugly. Obviously I was able to cover it up with pudding…but I knew that super-ugly crust was there underneath. (One of the first Pie Day revelers told me this pie looked like papier mache. And one of the guests who *followed* brought me half a springform pan that had been sitting in his office — dirty, mind you — for over a year…and was missing its bottom. “Hey!” I said. “Where’s the rest of it?” To which one of our *other* coworkers said, “I told you she’d notice.”)

I also squeezed in the American Pie Council’s January Pie o’ the Month on Day 4 — chocolate chip bourbon pecan. The recipe distinctly said to bake it for 30 minutes and that it would continue to bake after it was removed from the oven. However…I think I should have left it in longer because it was one goopy pie. I also needed but a tablespoon of bourbon…and now I basically have a whole damn bottle of Jim Beam left (and am sounding kind of like my grandma…aww…).

Day #5 — PIE DAY! — began just like the others: at 4:30ish with some asset management. Then, sweet potato. Which is super-easy. I already had half a crust left over from the night before. I rolled it out, zapped my sweet potatoes, scooped them out and into my Cuisinart along with the rest of the stuff. Baked. Voila.

Then I sort of got carried away with last-minute details…I had to make cards for each pie (as opposed to saying over and over and over again, “That one is…”) and I had to get *dressed* and all those other pesky things that I didn’t especially have time for during the week. So…the peanut butter pies were sort of an after thought. (Oops.) I’ve made this recipe about a thousand times (a lot of old coworkers are fans of this one…despite the recent scare that led one smartass friend to suggest the “fun” name for this pie — as I promised in my Top Ten list — should be “Salmonella Surprise”)…and I always remember it yielding enough for two pies, but this time the filling seemed kind of wimpy. Carmen was due over early with PBR to settle the ol’ nerves, but she left her green card application until the *very* last minute (ay, chica, when will you ever learn??) and so there was some panic about that as I changed my clothes and straightened my hair. I *also* wanted to decorate the peanut butter pies with peanuts (but was careful not to turn them into boobs…as I accidentally did for one of my coworkers once)…and Carmen and I were hungry, so I told her she could eat some nuts and she reached for the jar, but I thought she was going to take them directly off the pie…and so I was sort of horrified and she laughed and said she’s not *that* uncouth.

Then she called a car service…and it was off to the races. And as we sat in the car, surrounded by pies, I said, “You know what? I think this is the most outlandish thing I have ever done.”

And she agreed.

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Neal Boulton Likes Apple Pie…& So Should You.

I have been forbidden to apologize for anything at the Pie Day celebration. Every time I say, “I’m sorry,” in fact, I have to buy my friend a book. That’s the deal.

So…since I am *maybe* a little neurotic and feel the need to compulsively explain the imperfections of my baked goods, I figure I’ll get it out of my system here and do all of it ahead of time.

The first pies? Apple. And, boy, were there a lot of them. My aunt’s recipe calls for three to four apples per pie…but that would have meant upwards of 15 apples…and I was already spending a lot of money on this venture, etc., etc., so I decided to see if I could get away with a few less. Not *totally* skimping, but, you know, perhaps not going completely overboard either. Besides, my apple pies are always HUGE and they leak and it’s a giant mess. Maybe fewer apples would take care of it?

The recipe also calls for 2 cups of sugar…which always seems like a TON, but the pies are never overly sweet. (Although my aunt eats them with cheese to cut down on the sweetness…) However, with fewer apples, 1 cup of sugar pretty much drowned the first layer…and I was afraid another whole cup would yield a sickeningly sweet pie without enough super-tart Granny Smiths to counter it…so I ended up cutting back. A smart move? Who knows. I can’t actually try any of them yet. But I’ll certainly keep you posted.

I also let the crust get too brown on some of them. (They’re supposed to bake at 425 for an hour to an hour and a half…and at an hour, they were probably okay…although light. And so I maybe did one 10-minute interval too long thereafter…) And one of my Ls is leaning precariously in the L-shaped hole in the crust. It’s not as cute as it could be.

I’m also not really sure how to store these suckers. I’m afraid they’re going to be horribly stale by Friday. I have wrapped them up the best I can…but by the end of the day, I will likely have run out of space to store all these damn pies. I live in a studio. Quelle disastre!

And…perhaps the most shocking development of all…a certain Neal Boulton found me on Twitter and commented about food blogging and we got to chatting and now he’s slated to make an appearance at Pie Day. I even offered to make him his favorite pie (apple — like many a good American)…but then he sort of waffled about coming and I’m not sure how badly I want to bake an *additional* pie for someone who may or may not be there. So, Mr. Boulton — it’s your move.

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Sked: Write, Bake a Pie, Write, Bake a Pie, Sleep.

So…legitimate journos are descending upon DC this week to report on the inauguration and I feel a little silly saying this because obviously what I’m doing pales in comparison, but…after freaking out on a MAJOR scale about how I’m going to make ends meet next month, the universe came through in its weird way and now I’m filling in for my old job…and I’m a little worried how I’m going to get everything done. The hours are kind of nutso — I’ll do 9PMish to midnight for a European mutual fund pub and then rise at 4:30 and work until 6:30 for a NY-based hedge fund newsletter…and then I get a break until about noon when I have to write *more* hedge-fund-y stuff until about 3. But…I also have to bake PIES this week. Like crazy. So…I think my routine will be something like: write, bake a pie, write, bake a pie, sleep. Except I’m not really sure which pie I should make first. Which ones can sit the longest before consumption? I know the chocolate cream pie says it does best if its in the fridge overnight first…but surely being in the fridge for a whole WEEK wouldn’t be the best thing in the world? I don’t know — this may require some consulting with my mother and my aunt.

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