My daughter, mother, and grandchildren all love the Great British Baking Show. I started watching and I’m hooked. I love Nadia. I love their accents. I love to bake. I love saying “soggy bottom” with my molars clenched and my lips pursed.
When I dragged my husband to see The Waitress on Broadway I sang along. I know all the words to all the songs. Some of them make me cry. Only the man behind me was annoyed by my karaoke. He didn’t kick my seat too much.
For my birthday, my daughter gave me the Sugar Butter Flour Waitress Pie cookbook. I read it like a novel. I’ve decided I will make all the pies. One a week whenever possible. I’ll eat only lettuce until all the pies are consumed.
The book has recipes for many dozens of pies. I have not counted, and I will not make them in order. For my first concoction, I attempted my favorite pie in the whole wide world: “Where there’s a whisk, there’s a way” aka a lemon meringue pie. It’s on page 121 in the book, which is a perfect square—the product of two elevens (my favorite number)—so it was a simple choice.
I went to stupid market number 1, expecting to have to also go to number 2, and maybe number 3. I was happy to find everything I needed for my first pie in market number 1. They had Meyer lemons and Meyer lemon cookies. I was shocked by my luck. I’m not a lucky person. I worried I had squandered my meager reserved of luck and the meringue might suffer. When one worry is quelled, I can always find another.
I walked up and down the baking aisle a dozen times. Nobody asked if I needed help finding something. And I didn’t ask, even though I was desperately tired after a two-hour drive, and I had to pee. (Sorry. Being cold or having to pee seriously ruins the inherent pleasure of grocery shopping for me.) Those challenges were compounded by bone dry contact lenses that kept me from being able to read labels.
That baking aisle almost canceled my pie plans. I could not find cream of tartar. It’s a white powder, as are so many baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, and corn starch. So I looked with my dry, squinting eyes very carefully in the vicinity of each of those things. At the end of the aisle, a man with a cart was on the phone with his wife and complaining he couldn’t pick out something on the list she’d sent. His cart and body blocked the spices, but it didn’t make sense for the tartar de crème to be in the spices, so I didn’t stink eye him out of my way. I just kept looking at everything else. Finally I left that aisle and went to check in the cereal aisle, and then near the coffee and pancake mix. All the while I clenched my legs and squinted my eyes, and tried not to scrap my pretty pie plan.
I stalked a couple of workers. I considered asking for help. One of them looked like she knew where the C.O.T. was hidden. I couldn’t do it. My dad worked in retail and hated when customers bothered him while he worked. How hard is it to find the peanut butter without asking? There are signs for Christ sake.
So I Googled “where is the cream of tartar in BiLo” and Google suggested I search in the baking aisle, in the spice rack, alphabetically in the Cs. Google was correct. I found it, waited in the checkout line, bought it, drove fifteen more minutes, unloaded the car, peed, removed contact lenses, and went to bed.
The next morning I made a mess in my kitchen. I baked for hours in my red apron and a hairnet.
I crushed cookies, separated eggs, grated lemon rind, squeezed lemon juice, whisked, added sugar 1 tablespoon as a time, and left the light on in the oven so I could watch over an hour of baking. Here are some highlights.
I made the crumb crust. Next time I’ll pulverize the Meyer lemon cookies.
I grated the lemon rind. First time in my whole life.
I made and baked the lemon layer. Yes, I licked the bowl.
I started the meringue. The recipe called for six egg whites, but I dripped some yolk in after three eggs and had to start again. New process: separate whites into small bowl and then dump from there to the big red bowl once the yolk is safely in another bowl.
And after three hours, I had to clean up this mess.
The final pie was lovely and tasted like heaven.
There is one slice left in the fridge. When that is gone I’ll start Pie 2.0.