Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'm why they invented pie

I like pie.
I come by that trait honestly enough. My dad, who was an aficionado of the first rank, used to wax poetic about his childhood, when, according to his oft-repeated remembrance, his mother used to bake one every day. The backyard of the house where I grew up was filled with apple and cherry trees, so my own mom used to do her best to keep up with that tradition when the fresh fruit was in season. My sister didn't fall far from the fruit pie tree, either. She and her hubby freeze and store Door County cherries almost every year, dating the fruit-filled tubs much in the way wine fanciers maintain cellars filled with various admired vintages. You only have to look like you'd enjoy a piece of pie in their house and there is, almost immediately, a flaky, fresh-baked concoction coming out of the oven.
So it's in my genes, I guess. Because I do like pie.
Good thing, too, as the past week saw more pies coming my way than Rupert Murdoch, though I was lucky enough to eat, not wear, them.
It all started the weekend after we arrived back in the midwest, when we were delighted to be a part of the wedding of a neighbor's daughter. In an interesting bit of menu-switching, the bride-to-be declared a preference for pie over the traditional wedding dessert. So, instead of a teetering, multi-layered cake with a tiny bride and groom on the top, no fewer than 38 lovely pies graced the serving tables.
Enough for everyone. Enough for me.
Imagine Ferdinand the Bull in a field filled with flowers. Imagine Norm from Cheers in a bar full of beer.
O.K., or just imagine me in a banquet hall bursting with pies.
I figured proper wedding etiquette demanded I show my appreciation for the celebratory feast by sampling as many members of the pie family as possible.
As you know, I am nothing if not polite. So, I did my best.
The next morning, my spouse wondered if I was a little hung over.
Now, I don't drink, so that wasn't it. She was just afraid I had overdone it on the pie front.
"Nope," I said. "As a matter of fact, I wouldn't mind another piece of that strawberry-rhubarb.
Good thing, too.
That night, we got a call from the bride's mom and dad.
"Hey, come on over," they said. "We've got pie."
Somehow, a few crumbs had managed to slip under my radar the night before, so we rushed over to help set things right.
"This is it," I said as I waddled home. "This is really it. No more pie for awhile."
I'm pretty sure 24 hours qualifies as "awhile." I hope so, because I got another visit from the pie fairy the next night, when my wife hosted a meeting of a women's organization she belongs to. Max the cat and I skulked around in the back room, watching Monday Night Football, until the ladies finally cleared out. Once I was sure the coast was clear, I crept into the kitchen to see if they had left behind any of the sweet treats that are a hallmark of their meetings.
On the counter rested a white bakery box. With high anticipation, I lifted the lid to find the remains of an ooey-gooey apple pie. A little more investigation showed an almost full carton of vanilla ice cream in the freezer.
"Well, if I have to," I sighed.
Max agreed. I had to.
The next day was my birthday.
"What kind of cake do you want?" queried my spouse.
I was just explaining that I thought I had better pass on any more sweets when there was a knock at the door.
It was my neighbor, the father of the bride.
"You liked that pie so much, we thought you'd better have one for your birthday," he said.
I had to agree.
Later that evening, we cajoled them into coming over to share in my latest bounty, but there was still plenty left over for the next day, when I figured if I had some for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a midnight snack, I'd finally finish with the pie-fest.
Or not.
Another knock at the door the next morning revealed yet another neighbor.
"Sorry I missed your birthday," she said. "I brought you this."
In her hands was a familiar-looking white box.
Inside was the piece de resistance, an absolutely magnificent coconut cream creation still warm from my favorite bakery.
When it rains, it pours.
I was reminded of the O. Henry short story, "Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen," where a homeless man named Stuffy Pete eats to the point of bursting and collapses on the sidewalk after being overfed by a kind benefactor.
I really thought I might die if I ate another piece of pie. So, just to be on the safe side, I had two.
By this point, I was so pie-bound, I thought I might need a new, larger wardrobe to fit the new me.
But as you know, I am nothing if not persistent. I ate pie with a determination only equaled by Sísyphus, the king in Greek mythology who was punished by being made to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.
Well, it wasn't quite as dramatic as all that, but you get the picture.
Finally, the pie was all gone.
After an absolute orgy of gastronomic overindulgence, my customary late-night kitchen wanderings uncovered only this sad sight--an empty pie plate, washed and ready to return.
It was finally over.
Or not.
You see, we're headed for a cookout tonight with a small group of friends we try to get together with at least once a week when we're in town.
Linda and John are grilling the main course, while we're supplying salad and some bread.
"And what about Kate and Bernie?" I asked cautiously. "What about them?"
"Oh," smiled my wife. "They're bringing the pie."
Life is good.

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