Wednesday, August 8, 2012
“Looks like you’re busy,” Mr. Wonderful said getting home late from work.
“I’m making dessert,” I said over the din of my blending Kitchen Aid mixer.
“That’s a good initiative.”
“It’s for tonight.”
“A very good initiative,” he smiled peering into the mixing bowl.
“I’m making lemon pie.”
“Uh, I’m not hungry.”
Our friendly neighbors, Charles and Stephen, had gifted us homegrown lemons from their mature Meyer lemon tree. As the saying goes when life gives you two huge bags of lemons, you make lemonade; which I did for a week. Twenty gallons of it. I also squeezed quarter lemon wedges on all our dinner salmon, lunch mahi mahi and Pepperidge Farms’ Goldfish cracker snacks; I even made enough of my lemon shrimp pasta to feed an army of hungry animators. And still I had lemons left over—a bag and a half. So making lemon pie was next on the proverbial and actual plate.
“You’re making three pies?” Mr. Wonderful said. “That’s a waste of your dessert making time.”
“Lemon pie makes me think of that Paris café with the amazing tarte au citron where I sat, ate and watched the Left Bank world go by.”
“Paris isn’t about lemons. It’s about chocolate.”
“My Paris is about lemons.”
“Let me know when you upgrade to chocolate,” he said grabbing a bar of 72% dark chocolate and promptly left the kitchen.
To be honest I knew Mr. Wonderful was… a chocoholic. A day didn’t go by when he did not consume chocolate in some form—milk, dark or white. Every morning he ate more Nutella than a family of 10, combined. To make matters worse, he was a chocolate snob preferring Ghiradelli, Swiss and above all, Belgian chocolate. Belgians were a modest people who had mastered the art of chocolate making. In fact making and consuming high quality chocolate was the Belgians’ way of dealing with life’s joys and disappointments, which was a philosophy Mr. Wonderful thoroughly understood. To him a dessert needed to contain chocolate or it wasn’t dessert. It was a side dish.
Therefore I had to find someone else to share my lemon pies with. With three pies cooling on the pie rack, I hurried outside just as Harold was hoisting the stars and stripes on the flagpole
“Hello, Harold! Thanks you for all your neighborly advice,” I said.
“What do you want now?” he said with caution.
“Nothing. I just wanted to give you a pie… as a way to thank you for everything.”
“It’s a lemon pie—”
“Not for me.”
“Maybe your wife, Norma, wants a piece? I made it myself.”
“Yes,” I smiled, “the crust and everything.”
“No can do,” he said turning back to his house.
To be fair I knew Harold didn’t have… a sweet tooth. Maybe back in the day he did but since becoming an octogenarian he was too busy power walking, lifting weights and giving me grief to enjoy anything as sweet as dessert. I had to admit that it bruised my feelings that neither my husband nor my neighbor wanted my pies because I had made them myself; rolled out the dough; creamed the butter, sugar and lemons; and baked them in my own oven. The result was three beautiful pies. And no one wanted any? What happened to all the pie eaters of the world? Where was Kobayashi, the World Champion Eater, when my baking ego needed him?
I had to find someone to give a lemon pie to. Sufficiently cooled, I grabbed one and ducked across the street to Charles and Stephen’s. As Charles pulled his new jeep into the driveway I jumped out from behind the fence with a pie in my hand.
“Ahh!” he screamed. “You scared me.”
“I wanted to thank you for all the lemons you gave us. So I made a pie of thanks,” I said with a grin.
“How nice,” Charles said regaining his composure. “What kind of pie?”
“A lemon pie. Made with your lemons.”
“I’m tired of eating our lemons.”
I felt the smile fade from my face. He must have seen it fade too because he scratched his beard and relented.
“I’m sick of lemons but Stephen still likes them. I’ll take it for him.”
I recovered my smile, proudly handed him the pie and retreated to our side of the street. For the next seven days I ate a huge amount of lemon pie all on my own. With each delicious bite I imagined myself at that café in Paris listening to accordion music, drinking coffee and flirting with my imaginary waiter en francais. I loved every moment of my lemon-flavored Paris. Then and there I decided never again to make pie for anyone else but me.
My French reverie was broken by the ringing doorbell. I opened the door to find Charles and Stephen clutching my pie pan—clean and empty. Their enthusiastic words spilled over each other.
“Thank you for the pie! It was delicious—”
“I’d never eaten lemon pie before—I loved it!”
“I bet you made the crust from scratch. It was amazing!”
“It was like being in Paris!”
“It was better than being in Paris!”
Indeed. Sharing good food and good times with real neighbors topped flirting with imaginary French waiters any day. Vivez tarte au citron! Vivez les voisins! Vivez my Valley neighborhood!