“Can you take the ice out of my coffee and add more coffee?”
Typically, that’s the sort of request one would make at the very beginning of a coffee transaction. Something along the lines of asking for an iced coffee with ‘not too much ice.’ That seems perfectly acceptable. What is not acceptable is when an individual has been handed said iced beverage, consumes some of it and then returns to the barista with the request of less ice, more coffee. Even on a day when the ice machine is woefully behind on output, we would still prefer for everybody to keep the ice in their respective cups to themselves.
Complex customer interactions are the things that give me pause as I’m removing the leaves from the rhubarb stalks. Every now and again I toy with the idea of a Homicide Pie. I am not alone in my thinking. Waitress is the musical adaptation of the 2007 movie, the story of a master pie baker, hell-bent on finding a way out of an unhappy marriage and a dead-end job. Her exit strategy involves winning a baking contest in a neighboring county that allows her to ditch the wretched husband and open her own pie shop.
Pie baking serves as therapy for lead character Jenna, who names her pies accordingly. There are Naughty pies and Lonely pies, White Knuckle pies, Kick in the Pants pie and Miserable Self Pitying Loser pie. Pie naming at my current place of employment must be restricted to just the facts; fruit and possibly crumb. Even then, there are days when the windowed pie box mistakenly says one thing when the pie inside boasts something else. It’s nobody’s fault but the pie maker, who takes a glance through the walk-in and the next thing you know, three fruits are comingling beneath the lattice. Guilty as charged.
My intention is not to confuse. I speak from experience when I admit pie baking is worrisome business. In addition to flavor mix-ups, little things keep me awake at night. Wayward blueberry stems, runaway lemon seeds, a stray thread from a kitchen towel all contribute to restless sleep. Summer fruit is just as fickle as autumnal options. We wish for berries and stone fruits to be irresistibly sweet with just enough sunshine kissed tartness. The reality is there’s plenty of wiggle room in every bushel and peck, requiring a touch more or a tad less sweetener, thickener, zest, spice. It is far from an exact science, a little bit like live theatre. No two pie performances are exactly alike.
Open kitchens and stage performances are unpredictable. Oven timers lose power and forget to buzz, cell phones don’t lose power and do buzz (right in the middle of Act I’s closing ballad.) Kitchen showstoppers tend to involve wayward blueberries underfoot, cherry pitting that resembles a crime scene or melted butter cascading out of the microwave door. Bravo.
Waitress boasts a fair share of rolling pins, wisps of flour, and sprinkles of sugar all played out behind a lattice-cherry-pie show curtain. I was particularly smitten with the vintage Pyrex mixing bowls in varying shades of citrus. Clearly there is a pie choreographer responsible for the comings and goings of the mile-high meringues and towering cream pies. According to the Playbill, nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee who is credited as ‘Official Pie Partner’ for pies used on stage in the production. I’ll admit, from where I sat, the pies are dressed to the nines, glossy with crimson strawberries and swirls of cream that refused to melt under the lights. Without disclosing pertinent information, a wedding takes place during the second act, cueing a multi-tiered wedding pie. I imagine the glossy pages of this month’s issue of Martha will tell me how to craft my own.
At the intermission, concessionaires attired in regulation sky-blue waitress uniforms offered us two complimentary mason jar pies. Tiny and tasty, complete with diminutive plastic spoon, it was a sweet gesture. Personally, I’m more of a fan of ice cream during the Interval, but that requires air travel.
This weekend I’m on a quest for the too-short-seasoned local strawberries, the ones that are best eaten out of hand or with buttermilk biscuits. There are plenty of California berries in the walk-in just jumping at the chance to get acquainted with three cases of rhubarb. I will do my best to make that happen, and unless someone tries my pie patience, no one will get hurt in the process.