28 November 2013
Well, I made the pumpkin pie, three of them in fact so as to be sure of having something to show for the effort. Here they are:
I dressed the table then climbed on a stool to take that pic. Actually, I have no idea how a Thanksgiving table should be arranged; in red and gold as for Christmas? Yellow and white as for Easter, or the sombre browns and greys of the season? Ought there to be crackers and funny hats? Presents? My ignorance is embarrassing.
Too late I realise that the secret of cooking is to know what something ought to taste like. It was my mother’s secret. Lover of good food, she never did a hand’s turn in the kitchen (being of that generation and an artist to boot). However, she knew exactly what the result should be and would rattle whoever was making the lunch or dinner by prodding, turning or tasting and then pronouncing judiciously:
“Too much sugar, add more salt” or, worst of all, “I think not darling.”
She caused delicious dishes rather than made them.
What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is, that I was pie-making in the dark.
It was dark too, literally. This was yesterday, and I decided to get cracking early. Even the cheepy-bird in the tree outside the kitchen was silent at 3:20 a.m. My idea was to surprise some pals who were coming, unsuspectingly, for tea. Stealthily, and in super-silence bar the strains of a soothing Chopin nocturne, I opened tins, dropped an egg on the floor, measured spices and spooned into the beaten mix several tablespoons of brandy. Possibly using an amalgam of at least 4 recipes was a mistake? Should I have stuck to one? The brandy, suggested by the New York Times, would appeal to BH at least.
The pies looked as they ought, albeit the pastry I had hand-rolled, if not hand-made, seemed a trifle flaccid? The ready-made cases on the other hand,were brightly brown, thick and rigid. As to the proportion of pie to pastry I had no idea: should they be deep or shallow? These erred on the latter. Would they, should they rise?
By now the pies were ready for the oven, exhaustion had set in and it was breakfast time. Hurray.
Later the same day three friends joined us for tea and I announced the great pie trials.
“Honest opinions please,” I said, hoping they would lie.
“Bland,” said BH baldly, and declined a second slice – unheard of for him.
“Interesting,” said Ann, “is it supposed to be that colour?” She has lived for a year in Washington.
“Tell me, where do you get your ice-cream?” said Rosie.
By this time I felt totally undone; it was BH’s remark that cut to the quick; he’s the most tolerant and appreciative of men.
Cathy saved my amour propre:
“I’ll take the rest home with me if you’re getting rid of it.” It was a sort of compliment.
Do I hear my mother’s echo?
“Mmm, bland Virginia, in fact tasteless – but then I never eat puddings. What is it? The ice-cream’s good, where did you buy it?”