Scientists warn the full effects of COVID-19 are still unknown. I got a glimpse into this insidious reality at Thanksgiving, and this is my story.
Iron Chef keeps me in the culinary manner I’ve become accustomed to on this feasty holiday, orchestrating the meal from grocery shopping through drying the last dish. His proteges, Her Royal Highness and the Odd Number, traveled home and accepted their elevated assignments — green bean casserole and turkey apprenticeship, respectively — like they were being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
I was delighted to have but one make-ahead-and-don’t-crowd-the-oven-at-a-crucial-time dish — the classic pumpkin pie. My mom is a great pie baker so it’s sort of a bloodline thing, and I’d been working on my empanada dough since we returned from Argentina. I had a lovely locally grown pumpkin taking up room in the wine cellar. In all, the future seemed bright.
In retrospect, that feeling was misplaced.
Her Royal Highness and Odd are in their 20s now and this spring and summer, instead of innocently boozing it up and mixing with questionable strangers at taverns across the land, they were relegated to memorizing season after bloody season of the Great British Bake Off on Netflix.
Therefore, this turned out to be an extremely unfortunate time to be the lone Thanksgiving baker. Under their critical, English-accented scrutiny, the fluted edges of my now obviously too dark pie crust “lit-ruly” jumped off the pie. Now, for some reason, both children had assumed the name of Charlie, but pronounced “Chawley.”
“The crust’s edges are like the bottom of a bag of crisps,” one of the Chawley judges declared.
As the scene unfolded before my eyes, I realized that the molasses brown organic sugar I used to make the pumpkin custard filling had in fact turned the pie from a warm orange hue to more of a, shall we say, nut brown color. I was now having flashbacks to HRH’s first birthday when I apparently became the only human to make the no-sugar birthday cake in the What to Expect in the First Year child rearing manual.
By the way, what you should expect if you make the wholesome no-sugar birthday cake for your 1-year-old is that the great-aunty who brought the brownies is about to go down in history as “she who saved Her Royal Highness’s birthday.” And you won’t get asked to bake again until roughly 2020.
But I digress.
The color and the slightly soft consistency of my pie was now on full display for the judges as I cut the dessert into wedges.
“Has anyone seen The Help?” HRH inquired with her newfound dry British humor.
Odd Number/Chawley channeled his inner Colin Firth and offered, “It’s not a pretty pie, but I’m certain the pudding is scrumptious!”
I looked to Chef, who had clearly thrown me under a double-decker bus, for some kind of shield. I found it in the downy soft quilt of whipped cream he was wrapping around his piece of scratch-made pumpkin pie.
Mine is a cautionary tale with a simple and stoic message for these unprecedented times: Baker Beware!