Like any fan of Coconut Cream Pie, my first introduction to this pie was the version that was served on that little island in the Pacific that was a mere “three hour tour” away. The pie was big and fluffy and always looked so delicious, not to mention it was a tribute to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of that lovable Kansas farm girl castaway who seemed to be able to crank them out for any occasion without the use of an oven or refrigerator. I’d see these pies on the screen almost every day as I watched my usual afternoon reruns on television. I was not a big fan of coconut back then, so if I was actually served a piece, I’d probably not want it. But seeing those pies titillated that part of me that makes you want comically big and fluffy food. But a question for Sherwood Schwartz (creator of Gilligan’s Island): are we really to believe Mary Ann could really pull this off? Where is she getting the cream from? What about the crust? Sure coconuts were aplenty on the island, but as someone who knows a thing or two about baking, she’d be missing some important ingredients (let alone the need to chill the pies to set up). If I’ve learned anything from afternoon television reruns it’s that they tended to take some liberties with reality in the interest of quality entertainment. Still, if you are stranded on a dessert island, having a supply of Coconut Cream Pie is not the worst case scenario.
I wasn’t exactly sure how my personal celebration of National Coconut Cream Pie Day was going to go today. I was working all day so that kind of makes it difficult to make pies which needed at least a few hours to set up. Today was also National Student Nurse Day and I just happen to have a student nurse in the family. That would be my niece Kate who just completed (well, after her last final on Thursday) her first year of Nursing School at the University of Rhode Island. She’s a pretty smart cookie and she made it through her first year with her usual smile and determination. In a perfect world, I would have made a pie for her and then delivered it to her and her classmates to help celebrate their day, but that work thing put a damper on things so I couldn’t make the pies and couldn’t travel until after 6 PM. Plus like every young college student, she had plans for the night which didn’t include waiting around for her silly uncle to bring her a pie. It wasn’t in the cards, but I was thinking of her today and was proud of the woman she is becoming. I have found in the course of my life that nurses are pretty great people in general and Kate will be a natural addition to that tradition.
When I realized that I wouldn’t be able to make a coconut cream pie, I had to go find one. Finding something like a coconut cream pie is part of the unique challenges of this quest. It turns into a scavenger hunt that first starts on my phone and the internet, but then changes to actually driving around and hunting down my quest. After I got out of work, most of the bakeries in town were closed for the day so all the hits I got on my Google search for coconut cream pies that mentioned bakeries were all for naught. Also, one thing that I have discovered is that bakeries change their offerings daily, so sometimes their websites list certain items that they have made in the past but don’t offer it every day. It’s kind of a crap shoot. No matter, bakeries were out of the question because it was late day on a Monday afternoon. On one of my searches I noticed that there was a coconut cream pie from the folks at Marie Callender – maker of fine frozen pies that are available in the super market. This gave me hope. When I was at Clements on Sunday, I perused the freezer section and didn’t see any coconut pies, so I knew I had to go to another store. Shaw’s Supermarket was about five minutes away from work, so I headed there for my scavenging.
I first walked to their bakery section and looked around. They did have some cream pies available in their bakery case. There was Lemon Meringue, Key Lime and even Banana, but no coconut. That got my hopes up for a quick minute but then they came crashing down when my search came up empty. I started thinking of alternatives but I still had to check the pie area of the freezer section before giving up. I started a row by row search going through all the pies and although they had a good variety, I wasn’t seeing any coconut cream. But then I did. It was in a somewhat polygon-shaped box that reflected the colors of the pie. It was from the folks at Edward’s Whole Crème Pies who I had never heard of but the packaging looked familiar. The pie was a Triple Coconut Crème Pie in a cookie crust and I let out an audible gasp of joy when I saw it, like Charlie finding his Golden Ticket. My quest for the day had been solved.
The pie comes frozen and had to thaw before it was ready to serve, but by the time it took me to drive home, to eat dinner and to relax for the night, it had plenty of time to come to a serviceable temperature. I cut a piece for myself (Lola was not into sweets tonight) and enjoyed it as we watched our next episode of 13 Reasons.
Too my delight and surprise, this pie was really good. There was still a slight element of frozenness to it which just meant that the whipped cream topping had a bit of a texture to it. That didn’t taste bad, it just made you aware that it wasn’t fully thawed. But overall, I was impressed. The cookie crust had a Nilla Wafer flavor to it which was a perfect pairing for the creaminess of the pie. The custard portion was sweet with a hint of that sweet coconut flavor mixed throughout and the fluffiness of the whipped cream (despite the slight frozen quality) was a great balance. The toasted coconut on top made the perfect decoration but also fused more of that coconut flavor into the pie. It was definitely full of coconut flavor but not overly so. It was the perfect mixture. Lola had to have a bite too and she had a similar reaction, although the frozen portion of the pie was not what she wanted. I was really impressed at the quality from a store bought pie. Better yet, the pie comes in a pie tin with a lid that made storage of the rest of the pie even easier and I didn’t have to stretch out plastic wrap over the top and create a mess.
When I was at work earlier in the day, I was starting to worry about how I was going to celebrate this day knowing that I wouldn’t have time to make a pie. I was also worried I wasn’t going to be able to find one either. To cover my bases, I came up with a back up plan. Today was also National Have a Coke Day. There’s no real reason for this other than Coke is probably one of the most popular soft drinks throughout the world with consumers downing more than 1.8 million servings each day throughout the world. But, a holiday called Have a Coke Day was certainly easy enough to celebrate. I packed one to have with my lunch today (we just happened to have one in our house leftover from Lola’s birthday). When I had my lunch break, I went outside trying to take advantage of the shining sun and ate my chicken salad sandwich overlooking the vines at the vineyard. It was a nice little moment of zen, although it was windier and colder than I wanted it to be. But I had my Coke, and a smile albeit with a hint of mayo.
Somedays you wake up and you kind of worry about how you are going to celebrate this day. While my quest is happening, life is moving too so it’s not always easy to get it done. I try to think ahead of time, but there’s a daily grind to it all. It’s not always simple. Part of the fun of the quest is trying to figure out the solution or the plan. Today was one of those days. I had my Have a Coke plan in place in case the rest failed, but then I ended up finding a Coconut Cream Pie that was actually really tasty. The solution was right there in front of me. That’s part of the thrill of it all. And on those days when it gets difficult, they alway seem to turn out ok. And in the end, they sometimes have a nice sweet ending with hints of coconut mixed in.
Next up: National Moscato Day