Blondilocks assures me that the word on the street is to live each week as if it were Shark Week. I’m not sure what that entails, but devotees of the Discovery Channel certainly do. This faux holiday extends beyond the television screen, warranting special attention at the bakery. Menacing fins crafted out of fondant are swimming across waves of blue buttercream. Sugar cookies inscribed with quotes from an iconic 1975 movie suggest we get out of the water. And while we’re at it, we should strongly consider upgrading to a bigger boat. I may be dreaming, but I swear if you hold one of the Shark Week cookies up to your ear, you can faintly make out the infamous theme music.
I’m not particularly interested in Shark Week, fixating instead on the flats of blueberries and strawberries stacked neatly in the walk-in. There’s one dwindling case of rhubarb remaining and because it’s the 4th of July, one case of Granny Smith apples. In the spirit of our founding fathers, I cannot tell a lie; the apples do not taste like apples. Even so, I have carved out ample oven time for what I lovingly refer to as Ye Olde Colde Storage Apple Pies. Call me old fashioned, but I think apple pie should taste more like fruit than spice, with just enough sweetness and a generous hit of autumn. That’s hard to replicate in July.
Beneath our holiday bandanas, the ladies circling the bench are singing the red, white and blues. Tri-color non pareils and sprinkles may be out in full force, but the novelty of royal iced stars, oversized fours and Lady Liberty is wearing thin. We amuse ourselves chattering about holiday travel plans. Two of my favorite co-workers will be celebrating the 4th in foreign countries. Rita may venture to the beach but due to the aforementioned 1975 movie, will not go in the water.
Thank my lucky stars and stripes, I have the good folks at Solo Foods to keep me in the culinary loop this holiday weekend. In honor of Independence Day, the Solo-ists are sending me recipes and snippets of information pertaining to baking circa 1776. I haven’t the heart to tell them I am staunchly independent of their prepared pie fillings, passionately dependent on what’s in season. What a relief to learn that domestic cherry trees and apple trees provided fruit for the picking by 1776. This news inspires me to forgive the apple pie enthusiasts, allowing me to turn my thoughts to the quintessential July pie, cherry.
If ever there was a patriotic pairing, it can be found in a few pounds of sweet cherries and a generous splash of serious bourbon. Fresh cherry pie is a small summer luxury requiring the tedious act of cherry pitting; I am unafraid and have the indelibly stained fingers to prove it.
There will be a steady parade of customers winding through the bakery today. Most are already on holiday, many enroute to the beach. They pause at the counter, collecting an iced latte and a gluten free scone before wading out into the Garden State Parkway. Some of them will juggle pie boxes and ask, “This doesn’t have to be refrigerated does, it? I’m driving to the shore.” Refrigeration is like sunscreen; it’s always a good idea.
More years back than I care to count, my 4th of July was literally a day at the beach. There was the cautious optimism of a golden tan uncapped in a brand new tube of Bain de Soleil. We worried about the undertow, not the gluten as we unwrapped vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two cakey chocolate rectangles. We ate cherries by the handful and wedges of sweet watermelon.
I miss those days, as much as I miss the chill of Noxzema against sunburned skin. Enjoy your holiday and remember to be generous with the sunscreen. Oh, and one more thing; refrigerate any leftover pie. Even the apple.