Today is my youngest brother’s birthday. I wish I could be with him this day, but as I am a big stick-in-the-mud and he is the-life-of-nearly-every-party (excepting, of course, my other brothers in their turns), it is probably just as well that I am not with him. However, in honor of his special day, I have made a blueberry pie.
Now, let me make this clear. This is a fine blueberry pie. The crust is crisp, light, flaky, a delicate dream. The filling is fragrant, sweet, and complicated, a little like eating something that tastes the way a cross between a rose and a carnation ought to taste if flowers tasted like they smelled–that kind of pretty. Slice it while it is too hot to eat, while the filling is still bubbly, and spoon on vanilla ice-cream. This borders on the erotic.
I can make a pie like this now, but it was not always so. When I was younger, I could make many dishes. I started making cookies when I was three, bread when I was eight, pasta at ten. I knew what I loved, and I was willing to study spices and flavoring in order to do more than many of the dishes valued in those days by my family. I studied how my Grandma McCollaum worked, how my Grandma Jones worked, how my mother worked. When I hit my twenties, I began arranging dinner parties, reading gourmet magazines. Still, in all that time, I could not make a pie crust.
I tried. A LOT! I tried, and it was terrible and then I would give up, make grilled duck with berry and cassis reductions. One year my mother was out traveling the world during the holidays. My brothers Brian and John were spending the holidays in Deming, and I was the main cook. I decided to try again with the pie crust, to try and make a pumpkin pie. The crust turned into something between hard tack and leather. I L-O-S-T it. I started crying, like a hysterical knit wit, like a toddler who had lost her binky, like a banshee. My brothers came in and asked, in the kindest way possible…
“What the hell is wrong? Have you burned yourself?”
Me: I cannot do it. I can’t. There’s something wrong with me. I’m pathetic. (I howl.)
Brothers: What can’t you do?
Me: I can’t make pie crust.
Brothers: And that’s why you’re crying?
Me: Isn’t that what I just said? I cannot make pie crust. I WANT TO DIE!
Brothers: Because of pie crust?
Me: You don’t understand. Mother’s not here. She can make pie crust. I cannot. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to make a pie if I can’t make pie crust?
Brothers: Why do you have to make a pie?
Me: (Howling and indistinct words) Oh.
Brothers: (Baffled but sympathetic) It’s okay, Eva. We don’t need pie. Everything else will be great. We won’t even have room for pie.
They finally got me calmed down, after half an hour of me ranting and tearing my clothes and rolling around on the kitchen floor. John showed remarkable patience that day, especially for him. He usually evinced little tolerance for my theatrics, but that day he was cool. Brian, of course, was always cool, always supportive, especially of my cooking, and sympathetic and tolerant when I would storm and engage in deplorable self-loathing. Brian was always there to talk me off the ledge and buck me up, and even (when he had to) tell me to cut the horse-shit. “It’s enough already. You know you’re better than this.”
That’s why I made a pie this very evening. I wish to celebrate the day I got my third brother. I thought I wanted a sister at the time, but I changed my mind the minute I saw him. He’s been my baby bother ever since–my secret keeper, my battle buddy, my ally, my foil, my friend.
Cheers, Brian, and many happy returns.