Today’s blog = wisdom culled from the kitchen (I love to mock me), dessert emergency, & loss of spiritual balance, plus recipe for pie made with cherry fruit spread. I wrote this piece years back, but was polishing it for a book I’m working on, and finally just had to share it now. It is about what happened to me one Thanksgiving, but I think it – and the pie recipe involved – are equally valid for Christmas day.
Crisis Pie (When You Suddenly Discover Your Guest Is Allergic to Mincemeat)
A kitchen is a healthily sane place to be. Inner growth needn’t always be hard work; pleasure heals! So here’s some culinary self-help.
The evening before Thanksgiving, I foolishly phoned a guest to ask her if there’s any kind of pie she hated. “Mincemeat” was the answer.
“Damn,” I thought, “I should have known better than to call her. Now that I think of it, the ingredients for anything but mincemeat pie aren’t here!”
Housebound with my disabilities, I couldn’t run to the store to pick up something last minute. And it didn’t seem appropriate to ask one of my friends to do it, Thanksgiving guest included, because they all do plenty for me already because of my health-induced limits.
So I freaked out and, in a panic, improvised the following with what I had on hand.
pie crust, in a 9 inch glass pie plate since you need the depth
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 cup walnuts that have been broken up a bit
1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons Welch’s frozen white grape juice concentrate
cherry fruit spread or cherry jam
pinch of salt
* Step 1: Continue to freak out about the holiday menu, because it’s just one of those stupid things we humans do at Thanksgiving.
* Then bake a pie crust for about five minutes at 375º. (If you want, use ground hazelnuts for part of the crust. Don’t worry if that makes the crust fall apart when you’re serving. There’ll be hazelnuts in it, so no one’ll care!)
* While the crust’s cooling, and you ponder that this dessert issue isn’t really a crisis – a heartless health-care system is a crisis – mix together the melted butter, apple sauce, and walnuts. Let that sit (because you have other stuff to do. Maybe the mixture will gain something by waiting for you. However, if you have a co-chef, then she or he can mix the applesauce blend while you do the following.)
* Preheat the oven to 350°.
* Cut about two inches off a vanilla bean and snip it into the tiniest pieces. I use scissors. As you snip, let the pieces fall into the white grape juice concentrate, which should be in a microwave safe bowl.
* Heat this mixture in the microwave for 35 seconds.
* While the bean steeps in the warmed juice concentrate, spread a thin layer of cherry fruit spread (cherry jam’s fine, too) over the cooled crust. (It would have been apricot fruit spread, but I couldn’t open the jar. I figure the apricot jar’s lid being stuck was the way that God, who is all-knowing, implemented Her fabulous decision of cherry instead, a better choice – it tasted wonderful!) The cherries in the fruit spread were not entirely mashed but marvelously whole or in pieces. If I had spread the jam evenly, so that it was all as thick as the cherries, my guests would’ve ended up eating cloying mouthfuls of jam. So I spread quite unevenly, transparent cherry smears between the actual cherries. Therefore, the whole bottom was covered, but delicately so between the fruit bits.
* Beat an egg with a pinch of salt.
* Add the vanilla infusion – bits of vanilla bean and all – to the apple sauce mix.
* Right before you stick the pie in the oven, add the egg (I was afraid the egg would curdle otherwise).
* Bake at 350° for 35 minutes.
* Keep an eye on it. If the edge of the crust browns too quickly, put a strip of aluminum foil around the pie’s edge, covering it. I called my friend Diana, because I didn’t want to get whatever that icky thing is that raw eggs give you. She promised me that 35 minutes at 350° would leave me icky-thing free. You may want to check that yourself. In any case, let the pie cool before eating. That way it can cook (and solidify) more.
“So,” I mused after the pie had finished baking, “it doesn’t matter how the pie turns out. Making it was fun, and that averted the crisis.” The crisis, you see, wasn’t what we had for dessert. My panic was the crisis, and it was solved by two things. The first was the calm feeling I got from a creative, relaxing playtime in the kitchen. The second was the sense of perspective brought on by the idea of a bad health-care system.
The lessons I got: Half of life’s little ups and downs aren’t crises. However our reactions to them can be. And sometimes changing our feelings can be hard work. But other times, you can simply do something that’s nurturing to body and/or soul, the way culinary activities are for me. Garden, repot plants, make love, tap dance, write a plan to stop world hunger – do something that enriches you and perhaps others.
By the way – the pie was heaven.
Oops – I forgot three things.
* Baking instructions: I accidentally had it up higher than 350° for a bit first. For what that info is worth.
* And it might be nice if the center came out more firm, if that wouldn’t burn the edge (which eventually I did put tin foil on to keep from burning).
* I suggest you do a trial run on this dessert before you serve it to company. I’m concerned that my instructions aren’t quite right. But I wanted to share the recipe best I could, especially so that I could give you the story that accompanies it. I’d love to hear your ideas on how to make my instructions about this pie better, or insure it be egg-ickiness free, or other improvements.