Thursday, November 27, 2003

Gratitude, Schmatitude—Where's My Pie?

So here we are on the day when we are commanded by our nation to be thankful for shit. I don't know if the Congressional order came down with dining suggestions, if perhaps there was a turkey-growers' lobby involved, but I know our family has a menu written in stone. There is of course turkey, because my family is nothing if not predictable. There will also be mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, two vegetables (invariably peas and corn), cornbread stuffing (ancient family recipe), candied yams (sans marshmallows... we aren't that white), bread, black olives, jellied cranberry sauce retaining the shape of the can if came from (because we're still pretty damned white), and of course pie. Lots and lots of pie.

Remember the olden days when pretty much the only time you could get turkey was during the Holidays? Then the health-nuts got ahold of it, and now you can get turkey anytime, anywhere, all year round. It's taken the specialness out of turkey. Now, don't get me wrong... I love turkey, especially turkey that is spit-roasted by somebody other than my "No-Bacterium-Survives-My-Incinerating-Kitchen" Grandmother (it wasn't until my aunt Judy took over the turkey-cooking in this family that I discovered I actually liked turkey, that it was supposed to be moist and flavorful and not pure white and absorbent... furthermore, I was a fully-functioning adult with his own taste in restaurants when I discovered that pork chops aren't supposed to taste like cardboard). Turkey sandwiches are my favorite lunch, and turkey and gravy my favorite TV dinner. But that somehow pulls the punch of the Holiday Turkey.

So my focus has turned instead to the pie (I could have turned to the stuffing, which is only made at Christmas and Thanksgiving from a special family recipe that nobody else in the world uses, but I don't care that much for stuffing). Grandmother has been busting a hump the last two days to make six pies — two apple, two chocolate cream, one banana cream, one coconut cream. She skipped the pumpkin this year, I don't know why (I bought one at the store, though, just to be safe).

Grandmother's cream pies are a little different from the kind you get at the bakery. She doesn't use whipped cream on top, she uses meringue; and there is no cream in the filling, either, it's custard. So the cream pies are technically custard meringue pies, and unlike the apple and pumpkin pies these are very family-specific. You can't just walk into a store and order a chocolate custard meringue pie, you know. And very few bakeries can compare to her pie-crusts. Heaven!

I think what makes Grandmother's pies so special and different is that they're not very sweet. I mean, the custard filling is sweet, and the meringue is kind of sweet, but not terribly sweet, and the crust is almost savory (like really good toast). You can therefore eat a whole hell of a lot of it without getting that cloying "I just ate too much sugar" feeling. We're all about quantity here at the Manners Manse... because that's what sets a feast apart from a meal: Quantity.

And so off we go, over the river and through the woods (or rather through the Caldecott and over the Sunol Grade) to consume mass quantities at aunt Terry's house. Grandmother brings the pies, I bring the yams, Daddy brings the bread, and we all bring an appetite. Hopefully after dinner we'll play board games, which we usually do when we gather at Terry's house. My Daddy and I are the reigning Pictionary Champion Team, and I always kick ass at Trivial Pursuit... but not Trivial Pursuit Baby Boomer Edition, which I always lose.

But just so's you don't think I'm ungrateful, I will post a gratitude list here later on (I have to leave right now... coming, Grandmother!) when I've had a chance to think about it. I mean, anyone can be grateful for health and family and friends, I want to think of something unusual and interesting to be grateful for.

In the meantime, I am definitely grateful for the existence of the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, and infinitely grateful that there are so many beautiful young men in the world to look at.

Happy Turkey Pie Day, my darlings!

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