Last Saturday I had won a highly coveted Saturday off and was determined to get out of town. The combination of salty pretzels and chocolate-y peanut butter cups provided my road trip bliss. A girl needs sustenance as she travels the rain drenched Garden State Parkway en route to the Massachusetts Turnpike. Destination? Boston. Host? Master/Master in his new studio digs. Brunch was called for noon, and although I was more than a little bit late, I was armed with enough Halloween sweets to feed the gaggle of Young Musical Scholars assembled in the cozy (translation- small) apartment.
As we sat knee to knee, balancing plates of Nutella and Bacon-Stuffed French toast, the conversation turned from travel to baked goods, from Halloween to Thanksgiving. Between forkfuls of sweet potato hash and sips of spicy Bloody Mary’s, I shared a recent stranger-than-truth story from the bakery. One of my co-workers had recently attended a Halloween party where the featured attraction was a piñata. Not just any old candy-filled crepe paper piñata, this piñata was, as we say in the kitchen, en flambé. A flaming donkey piñata- I had never heard of such a thing. Neither had anyone else in the room. We tried to understand the thinking behind it and came up with nothing. I seized the opportunity to pass around my collection of Halloween candy the old fashioned way. No piñata, no flames.
At one point, we started to talk about Thanksgiving and foodstuffs gathering together. More specifically potatoes and gravy and vegetables. The general consensus was mashed potatoes and gravy were not only agreeable on the same plate, they could share one space. Sweet potatoes and gravy? Not allowed to touch. Stuffing could touch gravy, but gravy should not lean on vegetables. But Nutella could touch bacon?! Absolutely. (Unless you were a vegetarian and you didn’t eat bacon and then you probably would not have been on Saturday’s brunch guest list.) One of the guests admitted to a long held belief in Separate but Equal plating, meaning No Touching. I suggested she check out the tv dinner section of her grocer’s freezer. There were entire lines of meals dedicated to her philosophy with segregated aluminum foil dinner plates to match.
With Thanksgiving mere weeks away, I wondered what constitutes holiday dessert harmony? There’s a bevy of holiday pies where apples cozy up to squash and sweet potatoes go nuts with pumpkin. Where does that leave pie à la mode? Touching? Leaning? Melting? And don’t get anybody started on fruitcake. Fruitcake is something that many people would like to see set on fire.
I didn’t have the heart to bring up Mince pie because people get that fruitcake look when you mention it. The meatless, modern version of Mince is spicy and boozy and filled with perfectly identifiable fruits making it a quintessential holiday pie. It deserves its rightful place on the Thanksgiving Pie Podium. I like to combine a layer of mince beneath a maple buttermilk custard. With a nod to this week’s flaming piñata, you will be pleased to see I crown the pie with a layer of caramelized sugar that is bruléed. Go ahead, call me a holiday pie rule breaker. It’s what I do.
I am not the only one. Today marked Day One of Thanksgiving Pie order taking. And right off the bat, someone engaged me in conversation, trying to bend the rules. Would I bake her pie Thanksgiving morning so it would be fresh and what time could she pick it up? And what other flavors are we going to make? So it begins. Which is why, on the morning of the 27th, you will find me hunkered down in my pajamas, suffering from Post Traumatic Pie Disorder, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And quite possibly, eating a slice of pie for breakfast.