The Value of Pie

Over the past month or so, I’ve been taking a class. Well, it’s not a class, exactly — just an online, self-paced, not-for-credit, “personal-enrichment” (a.k.a: navel-gazing) class, about “finding your true purpose in life.” I know, I know: it’s a little late for me to be deciding what to do with my life since at least one third of it (and probably the best one-third, at that) is behind me. How well I know! But I got the “class” with a free coupon, so I couldn’t pass it up. Also, it’s taught by Tsh Oxenreider, and I’m a big fan of her work. Well, okay, I’m mostly a big fan of her name. But still.

So far, thanks to this class, I’ve acquired one indispensable bit of information: I’m in dire need of a reputation overhaul.

I discovered this when one of the assignments directed me to ask five people what they thought my top three strengths were. An excruciating exercise for them, as it was for me, but eye-opening nonetheless. Several of them said that baking a good pie was one of my top strengths.

Yes, baking a pie! How’s that for flattering? My virtues are nothing you’ll hear extolled in a sermon or see cross-stitched on a pillow. Instead, they come in different flavors (apple, pumpkin, raspberry, lemon, and Venezuelan peach, to name a few).

This wasn’t quite the information I was looking for. According to Ms. Oxenreider, the answers should have been something more along the lines of “caring”, “sensitive”, “courageous”, outgoing”, etc. (Okay, maybe not some of those, so much.)

I should be flattered that my friends think my pies are the best thing about me, but actually, I find this troubling. If baking outshines my personality and good character, then that is not good news. It means I probably should find out if there’s such a thing as a personality transplant waiting list somewhere, and if so, how I can get on it.

The funny part of it is, I’m not even a particularly skilled pie chef. The reason everyone thinks I am, is simply that I do it in the first place. It’s quaint. It’s outmoded. Like binding books with hand-sewn stitches, it’s something hardly anybody bothers with anymore, now that we have better ways of doing things. And it’s a real headache, too. Making pie from scratch is a real pain in the [insert 3-letter King James English word for donkey here].

Besides, I’ve had my share of pie casualties. Like chess pie, for instance. Ever heard of it? Yeah, me neither, until I tried it. Taste of Home magazine said that chess pie is very popular in the south, which doesn’t explain why no southerner I’ve asked seems to know what it is.

I shouldn’t have needed to try it to know it wouldn’t be edible, much less tasty. Can any pie be edible that calls for six eggs, five cups of sugar, and a caramel topping? A real pie wizard could’ve made it work, but not me. Actually, pie isn’t quite the right word — it was less like a pie and more like pudding. Diabetes-flavored pudding. But somehow Taste of Home thought this mess was good enough for the Best Regional Recipe award. (If that’s their idea of a Best Recipe, I’d hate to think what they would consider a bad one to be.) There are people out there who actually eat concoctions like these, and there are magazines that give them prizes! It’s a scary world.

Anyway, have you ever put so much work into something that you couldn’t bear to throw it away, even when it turned out to be completely useless? I may or may not have done that in this case. Besides, my parents taught me never, ever to waste food (even when its status as “food” is questionable). Since there was no room in the fridge, I stashed the pie, if you could call it that, away in a dark corner of my parents’ root cellar and forgot about it.

The Old Testament says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Well, you can be sure that hiding a botched-up pie will find you out, too. My mother discovered it several weeks later hiding among the cabbages, and said, “You made it; you better eat it.”

Well, eating it was out of the question, but I had another idea. It was about the middle of May then, the time of year when we tend to have problems with carpenter ants. I put out some pieces of that awful sugary egg pie (by then it had congealed into slice-able form), and it lured them out of their hiding places to their doom. In fact, it attracted enough of them that we were able to make a sizable dent in our ant population that spring. So the moral of this story is: I’m not always a great pie maker, but I am resourceful…

It’s not enough to disavow my baking prowess, however. I’m going to have to actually try to become a better person, so that at my funeral, when my friends have to come up with something nice to say about me, they’ll be able to think of something other than pie.

Something tells me I have my work cut out for me.

What can I say? I’m a work in progress. You will just have to bear with me.

I’m terribly sorry about that; I really am. Perhaps in the meantime I can offer you a slice of pie as a consolation prize.

Just kidding!

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