Wednesdays have been my hard days lately only because I have been doing double duty on these days – working during the day and then doing a shift at night. It’s really not all that hard. I’m not looking for awards or pats on the back. It just adds a layer of challenge to this celebrating thing simply by taking up a chunk of my day. Today was no exception and when I saw it was National Pecan Pie Day, I knew right away I wouldn’t have time to make my own pie. I’ve made pecan pie before. In fact, I did it back on Day 20 of this quest for National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day. I remember it didn’t come out exactly like I had hoped for. It never set correctly. I recall it was tasty, but it was a bit too boozy for me as I may have added too much bourbon. It was liquid-y too. In my mind, it tasted like failure, so I wasn’t eager to tackle another one today, especially with limited time on my hand. I had succumbed to the fact that today’s celebration would be made with a purchase at the store and I was ok with that.
Lola has made pecan pie before. She went through a whole pie phase once and she was always making homemade pie crusts and trying different flavors. I think her sister Cherie is a fan of pecan pie and that inspired Lola to make a special one for her on Thanksgiving (or maybe it was Christmas). I remember watching her make it and having the same concerns on whether or not it would set as I did. There’s a lot of liquid in a pecan pie. There’s corn syrup, eggs, milk, bourbon and vanilla. Meanwhile you are loading this filling up with pecans which, if Archimedes was right, means the buoyant solid of the pecans would be met with a force equal to the weight of the filling displaced by the weight of the pecans. It spills over. Plus, all that liquid makes it difficult to achieve that that custardy texture while baking. It happens though. If you do it right, it comes together like magic. It just takes patience and love. Lola made a good pie and I recall her eating it at our dining room table (with her homemade whipped cream) and seeing a very satisfied smile on her face. I was going to ask her if she wanted to make a pie today, but then I thought against it. She doesn’t have a lot of free time either and there are bigger fish to fry on her plate right now. But, when she reads this, she will probably be mad that I didn’t ask her. She always tries to help where she can on this quest. But a homemade pie was too much for today. We didn’t have the ingredients. We didn’t have the time. And it was way too hot to bake in our kitchen.
Gregg’s had time to bake today. You may recall Gregg’s from I went there on National Blueberry Cheesecake Day. They are a Rhode Island institution. It’s a small family of restaurants that serves up really good home-style food from breakfast to giant sandwiches to traditional dinners like turkey dinners, meatloaf and fried clams. It was always a favorite of my brother and his family. The star of the restaurant though is its dessert case where they have all their homemade goodies on display. It’s the first thing you see when you enter and even though you may be going there for a burger or a Reuben sandwich, throughout your meal you can’t stop thinking about the piece of cake you saw when you walked in. My niece was always a fan of their Death by Chocolate cake which was six layers of chocolate goodness. I was partial to their carrot cake, although I am not sure if I actually ever had one. Still, the memory of just seeing a piece of that cake still lives on in my brain. They do desserts and they do them well. They do Pecan Pie too.
There are four Gregg’s locations and as fate has it, there is one that is pretty close to my office. It’s one exit over and it is right off the exit ramp too so it is easy off and easy on. My plan was to go there, get two slices of pecan pie, and then go home. I left work a bit early so I would have enough time to get home and get ready for the night shift, so I also added in a few extra minutes of travel time for a Gregg’s stop. When I got there, their parking lot was still kind of busy for a random Wednesday afternoon. They have a special Take Out area to the side of the main entrance, so I went in that door and there was one guy in front of me buying cookies that looked really good. They have a giant dessert case in here too and all my options were lined up in front of me. The pecan pie was on my right on the very top shelf. I was in business. A manager, I assume, saw me waiting and she asked me what I wanted it. I told her and then I waited for the balloons to drop and the band to come out to celebrate my pecan pie purchase on National Pecan Pie Day. That never came. To them, I was just a regular Joe stocking up on the sweets. She probably thought I was going to go in the parking lot and eat both pieces in a crazy binge moment. It takes a few minutes to get your order ready which I appreciate. That meant that they were taking a pie and cutting to order. They put them in a square box with the Gregg’s logo so it looks like you have a nice little present. They also put a plastic ramekin of fresh made whipped cream in the box too. I appreciated that because pecan pie needs whipped cream. I was in and out within ten minutes.
When I got home, Lola had just made herself a cup of coffee and when I saw that, I asked her if she wanted a piece of pecan pie to go with it. She did and it felt good to give her a nice little sweet surprise with her afternoon cup. I only had a few minutes, so I saved my piece for later, but I put Lola’s on a plate with the whipped cream on the side for her to enjoy. She sat down at the kitchen table and started to nibble. We had about ten minutes to talk about the events of the day – more chapters in the ever-changing tale of Dan and Lola – and that didn’t seem like enough time to take it all in. Lola was eating her pie. I was changing. And big discussions were happening, but then I had to go. That wine wasn’t going to pour itself. With a quick goodbye, I was on my way and Lola was left eating the pie. She ended up only eating half of the piece.
It was on the slower side at work and because we had a lot going on at home, I had asked earlier that if someone was going to be cut early, could it be me. I felt bad asking because others had been there since the morning, but it was one of those days you needed to speak up. I ended up getting home around 7 pm and when I got home, Lola was in the living room amidst a few boxes of forms and notebooks with all kinds of info scrawled all over them. Lola is a copious note taker. I sat down on the couch across the coffee table from her and we sat there for the next hour or so and just talked about everything going on. We got ourselves mentally prepared for the days ahead, we promised to be kind to ourselves and we talked about some creative outlets for both of us that we would help us in the long run. We are finding that time at the end of the day to decompress with each other is becoming priceless. We just need to stay connected. At some point in our discussions, as I often do, I got hungry so I went out to the kitchen and got my own piece of pie from the fridge where It was still in its neat little Gregg’s box waiting for me. I microwaved the pie for 20 seconds and then plopped on my portion of whipped cream. Then, because I wanted more, I grabbed the can of whipped cream from the fridge and added another big dollop to the plate. You can never have enough. That’s where I celebrated the pecan pie today – across from Lola who was sitting in the pile of papers that tell the story of part of our life. The pie is evidence of another chapter in that story, one with a much sweeter taste to it.
Another day, another pie. It was another day where time was a factor and I suppose in anything you pursue over a linear amount of time, time is always a factor. It’s funny to me at how the difficulty level of my quest has increased in my last month. Each celebration is becoming harder and harder to complete. I have new restraints between work and schedule, I have new concerns which take precedent over matters of celebration, I have the daily grind of it all which is wearing me down and I have the unknown of what this was all about and what it means (if anything). But then I can look at my piece of pie. Sweet, full of pecan taste, cooled with fresh cream. A simple joy at the end of the day. See the positive. Be the positive. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy it with Lola. That’s what this pie taught me today and that’s what I celebrated tonight.
Next up: National Franks and Beans Day