Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of Pies and Poor Judgment

My mom’s birthday was two weeks ago. It says more than a little bit about where my priorities are this summer (which, uh, might be places other than blogging? Super-important, high-powered, top secret places? Okay, not so much.) that I’m only posting about this now.

My mom is pretty sensitive to sugar (too much gives her migraines; she understandably avoids it altogether), so we decided to make sugar-free peach pies for her birthday dessert. Usually, we toss the fruit with some good sugar-free jam, a spice or two, some kind of starch or thickener and call it a day. Corn starch is nice for soaking up juicy fruits… but the Incredible Eating Nephew has a corn allergy (too much and he’ll itch and wheeze). And of course, the pies are always, always nut-free because Curly has a nut allergy, and pretty much any meal is better without a frantic trip to the ER.
This summer, pulverized tapioca has become a surprise hit with me (yes, my life is enviably exciting). At first I was suspicious, my mother was suspicious and others were suspicious that inviting tapioca into our desserts would ever work out well. My mom and I are not tapioca fans. Serving us tapioca pudding will result in polite grimaces, and furtive glancings about to see if there’s a potted plant in the vicinity which will hold a serving (or two) of tapioca pudding (although my mom can beg off since she doesn't usually eat dessert due to her sugar issues). Turns out, though, that pulverized tapioca in fruit pies is quite good - I tried it because Alice Waters suggests it in a blueberry pie recipe in The Art of Simple Food, and it made me curious. The catch (and there is a catch) is that the whole pulverizing business takes longer than one would think (for those of you about to suggest a spice grinder: my now gummed-up one would remind you that tapioca gets, well, sticky, and might not be a great candidate for a spice grinder).

And on my mom's birthday, I forgot how long it takes to mash up the damn tapioca, even when one liberally employs child labor. I forgot a couple of groceries, and so last-minute runs to the grocery store were required. I forgot about a couple of errands that I had put off. I was trying, if not very successfully, to hustle in order to serve dinner on time. Or at least not hopelessly late.

However... I unwittingly hamstrung myself the previous week, when making blueberry pies (we tend to make a lot of pie when the Incredible Eating Nephew is in town). I was running a bit behind then, too, and Curly was helping me in the kitchen a bit. Actually, she was helping me towards an aneurysm, as many a child’s so-called assistance in the kitchen can do to the helped adult. As we worked, I foolishly mentioned what a lattice top is, and instantly could have kicked myself for my poor head-to-mouth editing. Curly loves crafty… schtuff. She loves making things with her hands. She is a crafty, crafty girl (in the making stuff sense of the word, not the sneaky sense). Curly, was, of course, entranced by the idea of getting crafty with a pie, and wanted to lattice-top away rightthatminute. I said no, and then, in another head-to-mouth editing failure, promised her that the next time we made pie, we would absolutely do a lattice top.

Thing is? Curly has a terrific memory.

So of course, on my mom's birthday, behind on dinner prep, I started getting the pies ready, and Curly reminded me of my promise.

I gave her a loooong, hairy eyeball, and then, albeit a trifle unwillingly, acknowledged the truth of what she said.

And so... we made a lattice top peach pie (two, actually), which we had with home-made vanilla ice cream (my mom, with her sugar issues, skipped the ice cream, but liked the pie enough to have a bit for breakfast the next day). In the end, it was scrumptious, and Curly was happy and proud of her contribution, and I… well, I chugged an extra glass of wine to relieve the exploding head-sensation that doing a craft project with a child when one is running late is sure to bring on, but on the corny side, I was also pretty glad; it was fun, helping Curly along and watching her quiet pleasure in doing something nice for my mom’s birthday.

Someday, I’ll learn when to keep my mouth shut. Of course, I’ll probably be dead, or in a coma, so it won’t really count. You, on the other hand, should consider the whole pulverized tapioca thing, at least when you're not in a hurry.


michelle of bleeding espresso said...

Ooh I'm intrigued as well, but no, I can't imagine how long it would take to pulverize that stuff. I have a love/hate with tapioca--I love it, mostly the flavor, for a while and then suddenly, GROSSES me out and MUST stop eating immediately and get it out of sight.

Anyway, the pies look lovely, and happy belated birthday to Mom :)

cook eat FRET said...

coffee grinder...

love the post
i want the pie but with all the sugar, please.

Krysta said...

oh yeah! been there done that with my little sous chefs... i've learned never to mention something cook wise or they will have to do it.

Bee said...

That really is one beautiful lattice top. I have, so many times, fallen into the "but you promised" trap. At the time, you always assume that said promise will be trotted out on a day when you have lots of time . . . but in reality there never is such a day.

So can you pulverize the tapioca in a food processor?

Meg said...

Michelle- I'm mostly hate/hate with tapioca; it's funny to hear how abruptly you switch from love to "get it away from me ASAP." Thanks for the compliments and wishes for my mom.

Claudia- that may be next. But someone else's, just in case it doesn't work. It's good without sugar. But... better with it, I admit.

Krysta- I'm glad to hear you've been there, too. I've done it before. I'm sure I'll do it again; I'll just absently chat with them about ideas, what other people do, and the next thing I know, we're embarking on a Martha Stewart home-ec nightmare.

Bee- I have to say, Curly is a pretty meticulous little craftsperson. Thanks for the compliment on its prettiness; I almost started yelling "Who cares if it's straight! You're 6!" but managed to clamp my mouth shut. I haven't tried other methods of pulverizing tapioca yet; I probably will, because it works really well, but hassle is not something anyone needs more of.