One does not travel the roller-coaster hills of Rensselaerville in search of retail therapy. Folks amble down the street, cyclists head for the rolling vistas and the occasional car is generally just passing through. Main Street is a sleepy stretch with a single restaurant and a diminutive library.
I had no intention of perusing the stacks at the Main Street Library’s Book sale. The tiny voice in my head whispering, “Cookbooks” led me directly to the 1994 Kraft General Foods, Inc. edition of Simple Desserts Made Special With Cool Whip. Unlike organic heavy cream, sugar and vanilla bean which are part of my personal and work repertoire, Cool Whip is most definitely not. Standing in the tiny hallway of the Main Street Library, I couldn’t help myself. The cover of the skinny hardbound book had me at Jell-o parfait. Practically jiggly in excitement, I desperately wanted to know what was inside the pages. Alternating shades of neon yellow, orange and green suspended in waves of Cool Whip, graced the cover. Unfolding a crumpled $1 bill that was buried deep within my jeans pocket, I handed it to the capable bibliothec. Upon closer inspection, I was giddy to learn that my new cookbook boasted 94 pages of seasonal Cool Whip recipes!
Following the dictates of the season, I began on page 50, “Summertime Celebrations.” Leafing through, I found myself pausing on the page that boasted Lemonade Stand Pie and Summer Lime Pie. The past three weeks had been a touch lackluster in the citrus department and I was fixated on the glossy photographs. All that I needed was accessible at the Tops Supermarket, a mere 30 minutes away in the neighboring town of Greenville. Before I had time to think it through, I was traveling the gravity-defying turns of Rensselaerville, heading thirty-five-miles-an-hour-and-not-a-mile-more towards Greenville.
Tops is a humble supermarket, sequestered in a small shopping center. I made my way to the Jell-o aisle, scanning the display of puddings and gelatins. Boxes the color of Crayolas lined the shelves of Aisle 6, top to bottom. “Pick me! Pick me!” the neon green box of lime Jell-o waved. With strict instructions from my fellow Scholars to adhere to the recipe to the letter, I filled my cart with a pre-made graham cracker crust, a 16 oz. container of Cool whip and one fresh lime. En route to the check out line, I paused in front of my old friends, Nellie and Joe, known for their authentic Key Lime Juice. I was a goner.
By the time I arrived at the express check out, my shopping cart had all the fixings for my Summer Lime Pie, but also everything necessary to replicate a genuine Key Lime Pie. The pie tide was about to turn in Rennselaerville.
On my drive back to the land of the Scholars, it occurred to me that with my limited access to the kitchen, I needed a solid reason to be walking into the house with fixings for two pies. I had 30 minutes to hatch a plan.
I crafted a baking challenge for myself, and plans to capture it in words and photos. Pitching my idea at dinner, I calmly and rationally explained that I would be hosting a Bake-Off. True, I was the only one participating, but it had far reaching benefits.
Researching Jell-o salads for an Iconic Dish of the Midwest assignment, I felt rather well versed in the world of gelatin. Additionally, my Key Lime Pie had won a Best of Philly Magazine Award in 1994. The end result would be that the house of Scholars would have the opportunity to try both pies. It was decided the best plan of action was to have the Bake-Off culminate in a blind taste test.
Following dinner on Friday night, pie forks and plates at the ready, we assembled around the long wooden dining room table. Our brilliantly talented art intern Matthew, pulled up a chair and was blind-folded. The taste test was short-lived, with Best of Philly Key Lime Pie beating out Cool Whip Summer Lime Pie in a single bite.
I bet the local library will welcome my donation of a gently used 94 page cookbook.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm