Through the Looking Glass, pt. 2

Where did I leave off?

Oh yeah . . . that pie . . .

Well, my sister and I have a habit of sending each other recipes.  A few years ago, we were in the midst of a conversation and I mentioned that I have two African-American cookbooks, but neither were modern.  In fact, both were vintage cookbooks, and neither had anything that jumped out at me to prepare.  In truth and upon reflection, I have about a half-dozen black cookbooks, but the fact is still the same: They’re historical cookbooks, and none seem to have anything that screams, “Make me, you fool!”

As a result, she’s been sending me links to online cooking websites that either offer or specialize in Soul Food.  I’m somewhat leery of them, chiefly because I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of fat and sodium I consume, and given that both fat and sodium are critical to what constitutes soul food, well . . . you can see my problem.

Now, my father used to make egg pie.  It sounds awful, but it’s actually pretty good.  An ‘egg pie’ is simply an egg custard pie – a distant relative of sweet potato and pumpkin pies, and a staple among Southern deserts.  Dad’s version was tasty, but he was constantly making them in an attempt to improve his recipe.  This means we were eating those things on a near weekly basis, and as you can guess, after a while, even the most delicious of foods can become torturous.  It was so bad, in fact, that in nearly thirty years, I’d only had one slice of an egg pie, and even that nearly turned my stomach.

Egg pie, we hardly knew ye, but seriously – you’ve got to go.

Well – and all of this ties in together, by the way – one of the sites my sister sent me had a recipe for buttermilk pie.  Like the egg pie, this is a custard pie.  In fact, it’s near-identical to an egg pie, save for the addition of buttermilk (over regular moo-juice), and the amounts of a couple other ingredients.  The Little Woman thought I was pulling a prank on her when I mentioned the existence of an egg pie – she kept imagining three sunny-side-up fried eggs in a pastry shell – and she was absolutely horrified to find out that it was real.  Trying to sell her on an egg pie – mind you, I was unsure myself, given my history with them – was near impossible, but she did consent to at least tasting a slice of buttermilk pie, even after I explained that the two are literally the same thing.

Go figure.

Anyway, I downloaded the recipe for this buttermilk pie and realized that I had everything in the cupboard except for a pie shell and buttermilk.  That was easily corrected, and I was on my way.

The Leaning Slice of Pie-za

You can’t really see it in this photo (which is slightly askew, don’t ask me why), but there’s a thin, bright yellow band on the bottom of the filling.  I didn’t notice any taste issue with the band, so I have no clue as to why it developed.  I wonder, though, if it was due to something I’d done in the very beginning.  The pic is also a bit darker, as the hew was more of a golden brown than the darker brown seen here.

My mistake – or maybe it wasn’t – was that the recipe called for “softened butter.”  So, I left the required quantity of butter out to soften at room temperature.  This took the better part of the day as the butter had been pushed back to the Frigid Zone of the refrigerator.  I’d seen YouTube videos of people using softened butter and it literally blended into their ingredients; mine did not.  Apparently, leaving a stick of butter on the shelf for hours isn’t enough, nowadays.  But as I was set to go, I used it anyway.  It worked – but I couldn’t help but wonder why my blended softened butter looked like little clumps of gold in the batter, whereas on YouTube, it was one golden, silky river.

For me, custard pies are never fun during the baking process because if the oven isn’t hot enough, it’ll be in there for a while, resulting in the crust blackening, and the outer edges becoming nearly inedible by the time it’s finished.  If it’s too hot, the same thing happens, but faster, and worse, the center never fully cooks.  I was fortunate, as it only took me about 75 minutes for the pie to cook.  It was firm, brown, and the smell was incredible.  I let it set – had to give it at least an hour – before taking a slice.

I won’t repost the recipe as I don’t have the link from which I took it; I’d rather post that than not credit the original creator.  If I can find the site again, however, I’ll post it here.  What I can say, however, is that it was better than I’d anticipated.  My hatred of such pies might be at an end.  It also technically qualifies as a “vintage” food item per my previous plans to make period meals this month.  It was so good, in fact, that as soon as the pie shell was empty, I started work on a second pie.

Pie Number Two was equally as good, but in my attempt to mitigate my perceived butter problem, this time I left the butter to soften for nearly a day.  This was all for naught, as I ended up with the same result.  I’ve been told that I should melt the butter, but I’m not sure about that.  Still, I’m game to experiment, so . . . why not?  Only thing is that it’ll likely be a few months before that happens.  You see, two buttermilk pies in a month is a tad too much, and with Thanksgiving around the corner, there are too many traditional sweets that I’ll need to prepare.  So maybe this will be a Christmas tradition, given that I’ve reacquired my taste for them.

I’m sitting in my favorite easy chair and watching re-runs of American Greed (as I am often found doing), when I hear the chime telling me that I’ve got e-mail.

Unlike the Little Woman, I am not a slave to my smart phone.  You can leave me a voice message today, and I might get back to you in the next month.  I don’t drop everything to check a text, e-mail, or to stream video.  Call me “crazy,” but I own the phone; it’s not the other way around.

But – call me “crazy” again – I had a strange feeling surrounding this chime.  I can’t explain it, but something felt bizarrely . . . off.  So, once I had an opportunity, I picked up the device and checked.

Boy, was I right.

The e-mail came from a student – now, former student – who wanted to alert me to the fact that he would be withdrawing from one of my courses.  It wasn’t a lengthy missive – running only about three sentences – but it was short, direct, and filled with a healthy dose of passive-aggression.

Without divulging the text of the note, the author sent his regrets about leaving the class, but emphasized that it was not what he’d expected.  Moreover, he suggested that part of his problem in warming up to the topic was his inability to warm up to me specifically.

Honestly, I’ve gotten this before:  Student signs up for a class, only to find out that they’re either unwilling or unable to handle it’s workload, and they’ll withdraw in an effort to spare a fragile GPA.  No big deal, right?  And as far as warming up to me, well, if you don’t want to talk with me, don’t care to respond to my e-mails, and generally avoid me at every turn, then I’m guessing that, yes – you’re less likely to warm up to me than the students who do perform those things.

Still, it happens, and while I’d rather not lose a student to outside issues, I’m very supportive of students who are proactive in monitoring their grades.

But this is where that crap got nasty – the last sentence of his note:

I chose to find something better with which to utilize my time.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I read that was to write a similarly short, sweet note – maybe a quote from Shakespeare – that said, in essence, “GTFO.”  I mean, how dare he?  I absolutely get that you didn’t like the class and that maybe you didn’t want to do the work, but to now insult me as you strut on out of the door?

Yeah, GTFO.

I thought my head would explode when I read that.  I was, and still am, pretty pissed off.  What makes this all the more aggravating is that the student only ended up in the course after requesting a waiver – from me – to attend.  When classes reach their maximum load level, the only way a student can be admitted is with a waiver.  This guy came to me, said that he’d really love to take this class, and I gave him what he needed.  I didn’t have a problem finding an extra seat for him, nor did I complain when he decided to go arbitrarily miss one-quarter of the class sessions to date. Apparently, his love evaporated after a mere nine weeks, and he needed someone to blame.

I did not respond to the student, and frankly, I doubt that I ever will.  I’ll let him have the “last word” on this and move on.  I’ve no clue what he hoped to accomplish by sending this to me.  But there’s a silver lining in all of this – unfortunately, I’ve yet to find it.


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