On Sunday afternoon I was completely pie-eyed. Not all alone of course— that would have been even worse I suppose. I was pie-eyed with two other church ladies— Beula and Velma. I was so wiped out by the whole experience that I couldn’t remember my name. Not then, and not even later. I think I was inhabited by some kind of alter ego which isn’t really something that a church lady should have— an alter ego. It sounds like it could possibly mean a pretentious self-centred attitude when taking holy communion, which would be bad, very very bad… and also spelled differently. But because I did not, then, or ever, have that kind of an altar ego I guess I had the other kind, the one where you act like you are a completely different person than the one you really are. The one where alter is spelled with an e.
It was that kind of alter ego that got me pie eyed. This was not a state of being besotted, blasted, blitzed, blotto, boozy, canned, cockeyed, crocked, drunken, fried, gassed, hammered, high, impaired, inebriated, intoxicated, juiced, lit, loaded, looped, oiled, pickled, plastered, potted, ripped, sloshed, smashed, sizzled, stewed, stiff, stoned, tanked, tight, tipsy, or wasted! It was, on the other hand, a sugar induced frenzy where every word that came out of my mouth seemed to me to be totally hilarious, and therefore I could not shut up or even remember my name— or rather my fake pie lady name… I think I was Edna. Yes, Velma, Beulah, and I were all pie-eyed after a pie eating marathon, for the sake of granting the fantasy whim of one of the gentlemen we know and attend church with.
One night at a Church Board meeting, or some other kind of meeting, where generally only coffee and a few cookies are served to tide us all over through the gruelling two hours or so of discussion, the topic of church pot luck dinners came up. Ken, the man with the fantasy, said in a rather ponderous tone of longing for something just beyond his reach “Oh… I remember the days… when the dessert table at a Pot Luck dinner… would have pies… from one end to the other… Pies of every description…fruit pies… lemon pies.. cream pies. But that was when women baked.” Well, I am a woman, and I bake, and most of my women friends bake too, and so, to be honest, his remark got under my skin a little bit.
The implication that women are somehow not doing their job any more because there are no longer those tables “loaded down with pies from one end to the other” bugged me. After all, we don’t live in the day of Opie’s Aunt Bea anymore. The younger women are juggling jobs and kids and volunteering, the older ones are caring for elderly parents, or spouses, or grandkids. Some are even working a lot longer than they thought they would be, due to retirement plans gone awry.
So how do we deal with those little jibes that come up at meetings? Another meeting of course! So at the next Social Committee meeting some of the ladies and I decided that it would be a wonderful thing to actually have a lunch after one of the services ending with that gentleman’s fantasy— an entire table of pies. We decide to get right on it! We would have a simple soup and bun lunch right after church, a deliberate light offering, which could then be followed by a feast of pies, an opportunity for all the bakers to really flaunt their pie baking skills! (The male bakers that is!)
We decided to call it The King of the Pies Competition. It was just the kind of fantasy that ladies enjoy most. Chocolate, whip cream, and men with aprons. Not the kind of aprons with pockets for nails and screws, but the little Suzie Homemaker aprons we had obviously left hangingt behind our pantry doors, collecting dust for far too long.
Of course, we would need judges. And that is where Carol, Dianne and I fit in. We would call upon our alter egos— Beulah, Velma, and Edna (or old “What’s-her-name?”) Why I can’t remember is likely due to all the sugar in my system at the time. The pies were carried into the auditorium in boxes, in coolers, and on pizza trays, by men with their game faces on. Men challenging one another to “Take that pie back to your car because you haven’t got a chance!” and similar masculine trash talk. Wives whispered tales of hubbies getting up at 6:30 AM to bake their pie up fresh, or freezing their result and calling it an ice cream pie because the coconut cream filling wouldn’t set, or using a blow torch to crisp the topping.
My own husband (or Yvonne’s hubby I should say, as I was apparently having an out-of-body experience just then) told the pie lady judges that he had specially grown his pumpkin “under constant supervision to eventually be a sacrifice, for this very purpose—this perfect pie.” Of course, he was laying it on a little thick at the time as he presented the case for his pie to the two other ladies, knowing that I would be ineligible to vote for him due to conflict of interest.
After tasting twelve different sample servings— mincemeat, blueberry cream, banana cream, lemon, pumpkin, two- crusted apple, chocolate Bourbon, chocolate cream, pecan, and a few mysteries that were also delicious, the judging was concluded. It had been a full hour of humorous interactions between judges and bakers, each in turn petitioning for their selection, as all the diners enjoyed their dessert, with seconds and even thirds amid the “performances”. It had been a barrage of slap-stick comedy and semi-serious explanations as to the stories behind their pies. Carol, Dianne, and I, upon the completion of our patient listening and serious critiques, treated ourselves to a full serving of our favourite pie from what was left.
In the end it was a retired farmer, Bev’s frozen coconut cream pie that took the Peoples’ Choice Award. Kyle, a young electrician and new dad, who had charred his offering, a S’more pie, to a nice golden colour with his blow torch, took First Prize. Second Prize went to Henry a retired government agronomist with his gluten- free pecan pie, which hopefully he will make often in the future for his wife Kathy who has Celiac disease.
Sadly, Rolly did not win, but for the remainder of the afternoon I was reminded over and over that it was the best pumpkin pie that he had ever had. Thank you, Honey; I could never have had such an exquisite experience without you. I guess those thousands of pumpkin pies I made in those years that our family owned our bakery, those pies that you perhaps pondered upon for potential palate pleasing pumpkin pie pointers paid off. I’m so glad for you….Really.