Family Baking Fun February is a thing. I signed the kids and I up for it, telling the boy and the tot we’d bake something every day of February. Clearly, I also need to sign myself up for some sort of over-achiever’s addiction support group. I’m always signing myself up for this sort of thing, and it is always kind of fun, but midway through I realize that “kind of fun” is a lot of work. Pie is a lot of work.
So, we’ve been making simple stuff all month. Muffins. Scones. Coffee cake. Then, because I am a glutton for punishment, today I agreed to make a lemon meringue pie. Crust, filling, and meringue. It was five o’clock, the tot was asleep, the boy was excited, the swollen glands in my throat weren’t feeling like golf balls for the first time in a week, so I thought:What the hell. We’ll make lemon meringue pie.
I thought of all the times I’ve ever eaten lemon meringue pie. There was the time at the grocery store bakery. It tasted something like what I imagined the washing machine thought of the lemon flavored laundry detergent—potent, but unimpressive, and maybe a bit soapy too. The second one I had was at a chain restaurant years ago. The lemon wanted to burn a hole through my tongue and down my throat, and the meringue was a suspiciously sticky bit of cotton. Clearly, a lemon meringue pie recipe was a waste of perfectly good paper in a cookbook.
The boy attempted to blend the butter into the flour for the crust while I separated the disgusting white snot of the egg from the deep yellow. “It’s too hard,” the boy panted, holding out the pastry blender. “Baking is hard work,” I said. Clearly he had spent every last ounce of energy working his little twiggy arms into that cold butter, so I excused him. He hopped down from the chair he had been standing on and ran three laps around the kitchen. Clearly, he was exhausted.
Fractions and Pie Pieces
Something like a cute little rodent popping its head out of its hole, the boy popped back up in his chair so that he could read the recipe on the counter. In his cute five-year-old voice he read to me the next instruction, stumbling over the fractions for measuring out flour and sugar. We measured it all out together, not too concerned with perfection—after all, it was laundry detergent pie.
The boy was sent out into the yard to fetch a big fat Meyer lemon. He then made his best attempt at juicing it while I made my best attempt at not grating my thumb along with the lemon peel. No luck. There’s a little something special in that laundry detergent pie. I call it the secret ingredient.
I gave the boy the post of stirring the thickening filling on the stove, as it turned into an oozing, mucus-like, gelatinous sort of concoction. He had trouble staying focused. I took over stirring our laundry detergent flavored filling, adding in the lemon juice minus the fifty seeds. Those Meyer lemons take reproduction very seriously.
A Startling Pie Realization
I felt a bit like I was painting with cloud as I slathered the meringue over-top of the hot filling. I smoothed it around, caressing that pie, and started to think that maybe—just maybe—it wasn’t a laundry detergent pie after all. The pie cloud got an affectionate smack with the rubber spatula, and it was slid into the oven.
Something amazing happened. Laundry detergent is not in the pie! And it doesn’t burn a hole in the tongue and throat. It tastes like my lemon tree smells—the scent of lemon blossom and lemon oil all mixed up in rain. The boy said the meringue tastes like the inside of a marshmallow, but it’s better than that. It is eating a soft, sweet cloud. The whole experience is like eating a lemon tree in a rainstorm.
Maybe I shouldn’t join that over-achiever’s addiction group. Hard work always seems to pay off. I mean, who in that group got to eat a lemon tree tonight?