Pie in the sky

Gary Lester

I went to an annual meeting of the Audubon Community Nature Center recently. It included a “farm-to-table” – type dinner using as many local products as possible. It was excellent.

A highlight was dessert; PIE! Pie is my favorite dessert. Grandma Lester made great ones. Even as a kid, I loved elderberry the most. Grandpop worked in the oil leases and knew where all the best berry patches were. He’d bring home a lunch bucket full of berries when they were in season. I’d pull off the tiny stems and grandma would bake the pies.

My Mom-in-law was a farm girl and her job was making pies for the farm hands. Hers were excellent, too. I wish I had learned the secret to her amazing, flaky crust.

Then we met a woman at the Farmers’ Market who made wonderful little pies. We became friends over the years. I’d buy elderberries from one vendor at the market, walk them over to the pie lady, and the next Saturday, I’d have my beloved elderberry pies. Then state regulations were enforced and baked goods almost disappeared from the Farmers’ Market. They can only be sold if made in a state-licensed kitchen. See why “big government” is such a bad idea?

But back to the recent pie experience. The cook brought out two kinds, pumpkin and apple. I like both, but if you’re anything like me, and I hope you are, the pumpkin flavor is being overdone and compromised. Beer, ice cream, Hershey’s Kisses, Oreos… all “pumpkin flavored.” In most cases, they are actually pumpkin SPICE flavored. A pumpkin is a squash. Doesn’t that make it a vegetable? Vegetable pie? I smell a boycott brewing and it smells like pumpkin coffee! So much for my annual rant. Suffice it to say I chose apple. And you know what, I’m not ashamed to admit I took one of the largest pieces.

When you bake or buy a pie, how do you slice it? I’ve seen these little spoked devices that you push into the top of the pie to make dotted lines so you can cut the pie evenly. Why would you want to do that? Isn’t there always someone who wants a “little sliver”? It makes more sense to cut all the slices different sizes to accommodate different appetites, doesn’t it? The professional cook did it at the dinner, after all….

If you’re familiar with the “One-cuts-the-other-chooses” rule, you probably won’t buy into that idea. I learned about the rule early in our marriage. I had never heard it. I’m an only child but Penny has a brother and a sister. Younger brothers can be eating machines and at some time or other a genius parent figured how to avoid the likely: “No fair! Jack took the biggest piece again!” wail.

The parent, tired of the wail, came up with the following: “One cuts, the other chooses.” The first time Penny it pulled on me, I was incredulous. “What the heck are you talking about??!!”

She explained the rule and the theory behind it. The cutter will try to make the pieces as even as possible so the chooser has no advantage; no chance to get a bigger piece.

I see how it works, but now, four decades and an Audubon dinner later, I figured out how to beat the system! Next time it’s my turn to cut, I’m going to cut the pie right in half. Then I’ll cut one half into eight little wedges and the other half in half again leaving two HUGE pieces!

Go ahead, Other Person, take a big piece. I’ll just snag the other big piece! (Next dessert time, I’ll take three or four little wedges….)

Pie season is in full swing and I hope to have lots of opportunities to test my new technique. I may even lighten up enough to try it on pumpkin, if I have to.

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