Well, in truth it wasn’t all that wild. Except for the part where I waited as long as possible to go pee because I feared that once I undid my pants, I would never get them fastened again. And since there was quite a bit of wine and then coffee, that got a bit dicey for a minute. (Rest easy; my bladder did not explode, and I didn’t need to rejoin everyone pantsless–although I did have to stop breathing for several minutes–so it all worked out okay.)
I packed up my pie and my cheesecake this morning and headed over to share the day with friends. It was a day of good food, much merriment, and a crazy person. Every holiday gathering requires at least one crazy person, and if that person is not a member of your own family, it’s all kinds of fun!
I’ve spent a few other holidays with this family. My friend’s mother is fabulous; she’s like a more mellow version of my friend, and a card shark, to boot. My friend’s father is crazy. As in, sits down and starts pounding out music on the piano in the middle of a conversation, has an opinion on everyone and everything, complains incessantly kind of crazy. He makes a person feel right at home.
There is one key to Crazy Dad’s heart, though. He loves him some pecan pie. And while most everyone fails to meet his stringent standards–and he’s only too happy to point this out–two years ago I joined them for Thanksgiving and made a pecan pie. And that pie? Was the best pie on the face of the earth. And now I am his favorite person. Because I am a freak magnet.
Two years ago we all listened with great amusement as Crazy Dad waxed prosaic for hours about how my pecan pie was the best he’d ever tasted. I should open my own business, he insisted, and sell them. Because people would pay a lot of money for that, a perfect pecan pie. It was so much better than any he’d ever had! I had to tell him my secret!
My secret, of course, is that I used the top-secret recipe… from the back of the Karo syrup bottle. The same recipe my friend has always used. The same recipe her mom always used. He didn’t believe me, and continued insisting that I had worked some sort of magic.
Over the course of the last two years, the Pecan Pie Tale has been told and retold, and I have endured a lot of ribbing about it. So when the invitation came for this Thanksgiving, I offered to bake, and my friend OF COURSE insisted that I make pecan pie. I said that I could, but that I had a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake I wanted to try. She loves cheesecake, so we decided I’d make that.
And then a few days later she called again to say that if I didn’t make the pecan pie she would never hear the end of it from her dad. So I decided to make both.
But… have I ever mentioned that I am sort of a pain in the ass? Please try to contain your shock.
I decided to try a new pecan pie recipe. Not because it sounded better, or because there’s anything wrong with the standard recipe. Just because I wondered if two years of hype would hold up if I made something different.
My friend lent me her Thanksgiving Cooking Light magazine. I started following the pecan pie recipe, while wondering how it had made it into the magazine. After all, pecan pie is just about the most fat- and calorie-laden item on most Thanksgiving tables. How was Cooking Light going to make it fit into a “health conscious” mold without making it something else entirely? Very curious.
It didn’t take long to discover the difference. Cooking Light calls for half a cup of pecans. HALF A CUP. For the entire pie. Well, that answered that question. So I followed the recipe right up until the part where I read that, and I was still wiping tears of laughter from my face as I stirred in the entire bag of pecans (one and a half cups, thankyouverymuch!).
I related these minor adjustments to my friend and her mom, and we all agreed not to mention a word to Crazy Dad about the change in recipe. In fact, I believe we toasted on it.
The cooking had reached a frenzied pace when Crazy Dad showed up. There was the predicted pounding on the piano, a few comments on what we were all doing wrong (“Too many cooks in the kitchen!” he observed as we three women danced around each other, each working on a separate task, while he stood there doing nothing), and then he spied my pecan pie and started singing my praises. I continued stirring the gravy and tried to look busy.
Dinner was delicious. When it was time for dessert, we tried to act casual while waiting for Crazy Dad to take his first bite of pie. Surely the jig would be up; he would realize this was not the same pie, and I would be free of the rather disturbingly friendly ministrations of which I’d been a target for the last two years.
Guess what? The pie was just as good as he’d remembered. The best pecan pie he’d ever had. Pie good enough to win a pecan pie baking contest… in Georgia! IN GEORGIA! Because apparently people in Georgia cannot read and follow recipes, either… or do not have very discriminating taste. Or maybe it’s just that everyone in Georgia makes their pecan pie out of peaches. I’m not sure. But I’m kinda glad I don’t live in Georgia.
My friend and her mom both made sure to tell me, later, that the other recipe is better. They’re right, of course. But the slight sacrifice in pie quality was totally worth the amusement of hearing the substandard pie being raved about. Still, it was vindicating to win at whist, later on… even if one of my opponents was my friend’s nine-year-old son.