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OtterSummer 8.16-TheLifeOfPie

The Grand Otter loves pie. The Muse loves to make pie, though she finds few opportunities to requite this love in these days of long work hours and Weight Watcher number-watching. The start of The Otter’s visit combined with the tail end of a vacation and a Saturday morning stop by a farmers’ market to produce the necessary conditions for an outbreak of pie.

The Muse makes pie the old fashioned way, and she wants The Otter to learn this tradition, but she can’t raise the growing bugger to join her in the pie dome she’s turned our kitchen into. All her specialized pie making tools, including her sideways-handled spatula, litter every available inch of counter space. I’d deflowered the gooseberries and pitted the sour pie cherries, leaving The Muse plenty of open ground to focus upon her particular mastery: crust.

The Muse’s crust never turns out soggy on the bottom, and rarely scorches along the pinched edge. Her fillings do not run all over the bottom of the pie tin, and are neither too sweet nor too tart, but exquisitely balance both extremes. Nobody can buy pie like this. It requires too much experience and altogether too much love for commercial viability. It could not be produced under any scientific management scheme. No assembly line could produce her results.

I do not know—or care to know—the details. I know that this time she found herself a bit short of lard and substituted a bit of butter, producing a more tart-like crust than usual, but still something uncommonly light and flaky for anything flour-based. She obsessively sets oven temperatures and times, constructing a foil crust cover to protect the edges, only to remove it in the first turning. She juggles two pies, each with two distinct baking phases, pulling out each at the peak of perfection.

But we cannot cut into them then. They must properly cool, so even though the revived Otter comes to the supper table, and we choose to eat in the kitchen so The Muse can hover over the last stage of baking, there will be no pie that night. Since supper had been roasted on the outside grill, there was no competition with the pie aroma wafting through the place. Gooseberries done right. Cherries just a touch more red than pink, and bubbling. They’d have to cool overnight.

I made my almost famous sourdough pancakes the next morning, though The Otter complained that she thought she would be eating pie for breakfast. I suggested she do both, but after a plateful of the cakes, she had no stomach for pie. The Muse had tried a slice of the cherry as a sort of pre-breakfast. The Otter and I waited for lunch, eaten backwards; pie first.

Supper that night included hefty slices of pie, while we watched the marvelous movie Life of Pi. Those of us who believe in the ultimate wisdom of synchronicity could not be surprised by this convergence of pie with pi. We take it as mere clear evidence that the universe is working properly. Such intersections punctuate every Otter Summer, perhaps because our senses are primed and ready to notice. The Otter gamely tried a bite of liver with onions, pronouncing it horrid. She tried and failed (due to stiff competition) to corner the market in fresh tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, but managed a little more than her fair share. She seemed less interested in the rabe and the warmed-over pasta, and I suspected a lingering pie lust there.

She still refused a slice of gooseberry, my personal favorite, and requested only a small scraping of ice cream on the side of her hunk of cherry. Perhaps a purist’s palate? Probably no better way to end The Muse’s vacation time, to herald in the start of Otter Summer ordinary times, than a plate of truly fine pie. The Muse proposed that we might take the leftovers as an offering to the Fourth of July pot lucks we’ve been invited to, which I think number four now. But I doubt any will remain by then. The next few days are slated to be rainy ones, downpours separated by steaming pavement, and will be needing some perfect pie served beside them.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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