Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Lemon of a Lemon Pie

I don’t really enjoy cooking but I do love to eat. That’s always been a great incentive to me when it comes to getting supper on the table. Occasionally, I’ll get a craving for a certain kind of food and that will be enough to set me searching through cook books to see just how complicated it would be to make. If the instructions alone are not enough to cure my desire to taste something new, I might actually give it a try. Not all of my attempts are successful. The food, even though it may taste fine, rarely turns out looking anything like it does in the mouth watering pictures that tempted me in the first place. I also find it hard to reconcile that there are actually times when, in spite of the fact that I have followed the recipe religiously, the results are a total disaster. We’ll say nothing about my ill-fated attempt at something called Buckaroo Beans…not even the dog would eat them.

I usually do all right with pies thanks to my mother’s recipe for Never Fail Pie Crust. It lives up to its name for the most part and is relatively simple to make. In the second year of our marriage, Bev and I were living in Jamaica and he mentioned that lemon meringue had to be his all time favorite when it came to pies. One day I stumbled across a mix for lemon pie filling that was half hidden on an upper shelf at the local grocery store and I decided to buy it and surprise him by making one for dessert that night.

Bev was out for the afternoon so I set to work in high spirits. The Never Fail Pie Crust rolled out beautifully and I gently placed it in the pie plate, fluting the edges artistically and pricking it with a fork before popping it into the oven to bake. In the meantime I followed the directions on the box to make the filling on the stove top. I had to pause in my stirring to take the crust out of the oven and that was the first intimation that my project was not destined to go smoothly. My once beautiful crust had shrunk so that it only reached halfway up the sides of the pan, the fluted edges shriveled to indistinct lumps. There was no time to mourn though. I was supposed to stir the filling until it thickened and I didn’t want to scorch it.

Twenty minutes later I was still stirring. The lemony concoction in the pot was bubbling softly but it still showed little or no sign of the promised thickening. I began to speculate on the actual age of the mix I’d purchased or the possible effects of Jamaica’s hot and humid climate on the making of lemon pie. Finally, I decided to just go for it in the hopes that it would thicken as it cooled. I poured it into my diminished pie crust, careful not to overflow the edges. It was going to be a thin pie. I took out some of my frustration in beating the egg whites to stiff peaks for the meringue. Once it was spooned on and the whole thing baked, I set it to cool. I watched it closely but as the afternoon wore on hope faded.

Bev arrived to find me in tears. The pie sat on the counter, the meringue floating on the lemony soup beneath it. I wanted nothing more than to throw the whole mess over the fence out back. The disappointment was acute. Bev, however, was not about to give up his lemon pie without a fight. I watched in amazement as he carefully slid the meringue from the top of the pie onto a plate. Then he poured the filling back into a pot to reheat. A few tablespoons of cornstarch had it thickened up in no time. Now why didn’t I think of that! Once he had it back in the pie he simply slid the meringue back to its original place on top and pronounced it ready to eat.

It wasn’t pretty. In fact it was a lemon of a pie altogether. Even so, we ate the whole thing. Since then Bev has had to settle for apple pie when I want to surprise him with a treat. He assures me that apple is his all time second favorite when it comes to pies. He can always have the lemon when we go out.

Never Fail Pie Crust

4 ½ c. flour

1 lb. shortening or lard

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

1 egg

1 tsp. vinegar

Sift salt and soda into flour. Mix shortening through flour. To 1 egg in measuring cup add vinegar and make up to ¾ c. with cold water. Mix and chill. Roll out.

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