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National Pie Day!

I hurt my hand this weekend. It was my own fault. I was horseback riding with Neva, and because she hasn’t been on a horse in a few months, (winter and FLEX issues got in the way of our riding time) we decided to stay in the horse ring. Neva is still somewhat nervous on the horses. She is a daredevil around animals, but ON them is another issue. I guess it is a long way down when you are only 4 feet tall, and she is vividly aware that they are stronger than her and posses a definite will of their own. She is nervous because she’s smart. She knows animals well enough to know that unlike machines or computerized toys, they have moods, attitudes, and fears, all of which can be the root of unpredictable behaviors.


It is very important to me that my daughter gains confidence and learns to control her mount well (for safety reasons and so nothing hinders her love of riding) so I watch her like a hawk, giving advice and encouragement and trying to teach her the basics of mastering a horse. I want her to feel connected and comfortable now, while she is young and impressionable. How a person is introduced to a subject often is paramount to their long-term appreciation. If you teach a person to love something from the get-go, let them experience the joy, they will embrace the frustrations and/or painful elements that are a part of the package later. A person is less likely to quit an activity the first time something hurts or they’re disappointed if a solid love for the subject has already been implanted. At least, this was my belief in regards to teaching dance, and I think the principal applies to everything. (Dance is, after all, my metaphor for life.) If you teach youngsters to love something first, the discipline required to excel will be embraced willingly when it’s time to get serious.


Suffice to say that while my eyes were on her, my horse spooked and lunged to the side, catching me off guard. Obviously, while in the ring (a controlled environment) I’m not expecting anything to happen, so I was in a relaxed, unaware state. I wasn’t unseated by the sudden bucking, but taking control meant the reigns jerked my hand in an odd way and this somehow pulled the tendons in my palm. (Do I have tendons in my palm? Well, something muscular in my hand was strained. Nothing broke, but man-o-man, did my hand hurt. ) It was a freak, painful, totally uneventful accident, which left me with a bum hand. My hand felt fine when straight, but I couldn’t grip anything or close my fingers. Moreover, typing was uncomfortable, so I had to keep that to a minimum, which always makes me feel isolated and out of sorts.


While a sore hand isn’t serious, the injury did have serious repercussions. For example, because of my injured hand, I had two bad hair days. Oh the trauma of it all….
I couldn’t hold my blow dryer, so I just let my hair go au natural, which means I didn’t have my usual Break-girl, luscious locks, swirling about my shoulders in soft curls. Nope. It was more a frizzy, haphazard do with that “just rolled out of bed” look. It was a hardship, I tell you. More for Mark than me. He’s the one that had to look at me.


Then, there was the cooking delimma. I couldn’t hold a knife to cut vegetables and such. I couldn’t bang on my chopper. When I made turkey soup, it was a bit more chunky than I wanted. My homemade stuffing lacked the fine detail of well-diced  celery and onion. My English Trifle came out perfect (no-brainer) but that didn’t appease my frustration, considering I had to serve sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes in a simple way. 
Not that anyone really cared but me. I had invited Denver and her boyfriend over for dinner. I said, “It won’t be anything special. My hand hurts so I’m just throwing a turkey in the oven.”
Later, Denver looked at my spread, nudged her boyfriend, and said, “See honey, nothing special. Just a Thanksgiving dinner in April. That’s my mom’s idea of nothing special.” (I have no idea where that girl got her sarcasm. Ahem.)


The next day, my hand was slightly better. It was pie day at the Hendrys. What is pie day, you might ask? Well, that is just one of those things that happens to someone like me. Call it a fluke thematic moment. Must be fallout from years of recital madness.


Because my hand hurt, I had planned to make spaghetti. However, I thought Kent was acting out of sorts, so I changed the menu to homemade potpie, his favorite.  I knew that would put a spring in his step. Always does.


Bravely facing the pain, stoically, I cut up the vegetables and sautéed the chicken, cooking everything in a thick, hearty sauce. It would be easier to make a few big pies that you just dish servings out of, but I like to make everyone an independent pie all their own because it is pretty and offers more flakey crust. I was expecting Denver and Eric (her boyfriend), Sonia (mother in law) Dianne (sister in law), and my still-at-home family for the meal. That made eight – LOTS of independent pies to assemble. I decorated the top of each with something to denote whom it was for. I used my fork to put a person’s initials, a heart, or a happy face on each pie. I am really queer that way. Presentation is half the fun of cooking.


Pot Pie is sort of an all-inclusive meal, considering the meat, veggies, crust and potatoes are wrapped into one pretty package. I thought a salad, some fruit, the leftover stuffing and voila! Instant dinner. However, I needed to make dessert. I ALWAYS make dessert. It is my experimental area and the meal would seem incomplete without a grand finale.


I saw a recipe for Banana  Meringue pie in a cooking magazine and it looked rather dynamic. I thought it would be fun to give it a go, and I had bananas, so I made the crust from crushed vanilla wafers, whipped up the sauce on the stove top,  and put the thing together. Actually, I’ve never made a pie with a meringue topping before, so I was looking forward to this part. I whipped up the egg whites piled it on top of my layered pie filling in a pretty way and popped the shebang into the oven. When it came out, I was flabbergasted.   It was so pretty. It was TOO pretty. Because I knew this was going to go over big, and with eight guests, I may not have enough pie to go around. This certainly wouldn’t do. But I hate to make two of the same thing, because that isn’t any fun. I like making new things. It’s simply more interesting.


I determined that I needed to make another dessert, but I couldn’t go with something too different, like Mocha brownies, because then people would suffer over making a choice. It was too much like offering apples and oranges. Easier to say, “Do you want a Macintosh or Granny Smith?” Then, the choice is easier. Beside which, my family might feel inclined to have both desserts if they are widely different, and then they’d yell at me for making them fat. No, it would be better if I made something similar, yet slightly different, so the options were not so varied. Since the Meringue was so pretty and I was feeling quite accomplished at it’s success, I made a lemon meringue pie too. This required a basic piecrust, not unlike the potpies, (and now I feared piecrust overkill) but I decided, heck, why not? It so happens, my recipe makes enough dough for two pies, and since this was a one-crust pie, I had extra. So, I cooked two crusts, thinking it would be wrong to waste a second pie shell after the work of blending it was done .


The lemon meringue pie was even prettier than the banana pie. I was dancing around the kitchen singing “Go Me, Go Me!  Martha Stewart, Julia Child, Rachael Ray – you are all amateurs compared to me!” (I am a humble cook, as you can see.)


But that third crust stood there, taunting me, challenging my creativity. I had lemon, I had banana. I had an empty piecrust calling my name. It was time for Chocolate! 


So, I made a chocolate Meringue pie. I could have, should have, varied the fare a bit, and made it a French silk pie or something, but I was on a meringue roll. Besides which, there are practically no calories in meringue and I knew this would keep me from getting in trouble for offering all these fine desserts to a family that is always complaining about their weight.


That night, everyone gathered for dinner. Mark took one look at my three perfect pies, chuckled and said, “We have to open that coffee shop. People will flip when they see desserts like this, and, um . .  how else can we unload this much cooking when you go off on a tangent.”  
“Shut up. It’s not a tangent. We are having a taste test tonight,” I explained, as if this was logic that shouldn’t have to be pointed out.
“What’s with all the pies.” Denver said. “Pot Pie, Dessert Pies? I sense a deeper purpose.”
“It is national pie day. How could you have forgotten such an important occasion? I’m only showing my patriotic commitment to pie consuming. I’m ashamed any daughter of mine hasn’t done something to recognize the day.”
“Oh yeah, national pie day. My bad.”


So, we gorged. My hand still hurt so I could barely hold my fork, but I rarely enjoy eating what I make, so that wasn’t a big deal. I think it has something to do with all the taste testing in the kitchen.  I sipped wine (holding the glass awkwardly) and tried to read meaning into every subtle facial expression, looking for validation as a cook in the taste bud reactions of those at the table. I do that. It’s stupid. Not like, they aren’t going to voice their opinions, for or against, any new dish I serve.


Today, I have a refrigerator filled with half eaten pies. I will no doubt throw them out tomorrow. That’s OK, because I have a hankering to try this Raspberry lemonade cake recipe I saw last night in another cooking magazine . I’m convinced I can make that puppy sugar free without anyone noticing. Love a challenge.


Speaking of a challenge . . ahem . . pies may not be the only thing I’m cooking here in Georgia. I just may be hard-boiling a bunch of peacock eggs as we speak. My damn incubator keeps inching up the temperature. If you let it go over 103 degrees, you can actually slow cook your eggs rather than incubate them, so every time I go down to turn them I’m screaming “eek” and turning the dang thing down. It has definitely soared a bit beyond the danger mark, I fear. I read that as the birds develop, their body heat can cause the temperature to rise. That is promising, considering it means they are growing, IF I haven’t cooked my goose (or in this case, my ducks and peacocks). Oh my, the weight of responsibility in this endeavor is daunting.
Neva doesn’t seem bothered. She says, “Well, if they die, we’ll just start over with more eggs.”
I guess that means we won’t be staging any dramatic funeral service for the unhatched fowl. That, at least, is a relief. Nevertheless, I go down to check more often than I should, concerned that I am not serving my roll as mother hen very well. What can I say,  I get motion sickness, ya know. The learning curve sometimes leaves me queasy.


My hand is aching again. I must stop typing.
Hope everyone had a wondering national pie day, and they are planning good things for national raspberry lemonade cake day tomorrow (to be served with lemonade and lemon chicken, of course).


Make life an event!

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

3 responses »

  1. I adore english trifle. A Scottish friend used to make me one every year for my birthday until I was 10–non-alcoholic, of course.

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  2. I wanted you to know that I made an apple strusel tonight in your honor. I know, it is not a pie, but it was the closest I was going to get in my new surroundings. Thanks for the dessert inspiration!

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  3. Yum! You’re amazing.And I hope that hand is feeling better. I actually hurt my hand about a month ago from handling and cutting up hot peppers. My hand felt like it would burst open at the fingertips. It made grading quite interesting that day. I’m lame, I know.

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