Friday, July 15, 2011

Thoughts About Pies... Immoriarum.

Don't Miss Your Pies... Until...
When I was young, practically no one in our entire family made pies until the holiday season and then, my maternal grandmother would make wonderful pies. Her specialty was mince meat and meat pies. They were delicious. But if we had any fruit pies, it was probably store bought. I don't recall any one in the family making fruit or nut pies.

I really don't know why my wife started this trend, but, early in our marriage, she made two of the best pies I believe I ever ate. One was an apple pie and the other was a lemon pie. Oh, my goodness! Since then, those two pies are, in my mind, the pinnacle of how all pies must be judged... even the ones that Tee or I now make, during the holidays, can ever beat those two original. I could really expound on the concept of deserts and what our minds conjure up about them as time and taste buds fade away. For example, Therese's entire family could not live without "Mrs. Jo Lou's" cinnamon rolls and when she passed away, Mrs. Jo Lou created a legend by which all other cinnamon rolls are judged. On a scale of ten, according to my wife, no bakery or baker has even approached a "7."

So, when a friend or relative makes a claim about "pie stardom", well, every self-proclaimed pie lover has to travel to taste test and have their say.

Four years or so ago, my brother told us about a small town restaurant that made the best pies in the world. Going to school at LSU in Shreveport, every time he came home to visit, Bob would stop and have some pie at Lea's Restaurant, in LeCompte, LA , off Hwy#1. Every time we visited it, it was closed. But one day, we actually, almost serendipitously, moseyed off Interstate #49 to find Lea's getting ready to close for the day. Therese walked in with her check book and walked out with two whole pies... one for us and one for my brother, who seldom eats deserts, but makes an exception with Lea's.

He never received his pie!

It was so good that we just couldn't help ourselves. And, there was no guilt involved, whatsoever! We figured that what he and his family didn't know, wouldn't hurt them. Inside of a long weekend, both pies were obliterated! I think it was one apple and one cherry pie... I think!

Since that time we've passed by Lea's several times only to have arrived too late to have dinner or pie. No pie for desert and no pie to take home. And no pie for, hopefully, my dear brother and his pie starved family. But just a few days ago, all the gods came down to help us find our way to pie-dom! It was open and full with the after church services crowd of locals and a smattering of un-locals looking for pie rapture.

Sadly, it was not to be. All that anguish, the frustration of years of untimely closures, the miles and fuel spent in vain. The desperation in the hopes of, once again, reaching that pie in the sky high. It all, was not to be!

The meal was country fare and certainly edible. Therese had a turkey dinner that wasn't so filling to not have room for pie. The turkey stuffing was good and the turkey was real, not that pressed turkey product you get this time of year. The veggies were the frozen kind, but again, not unacceptable. I had fried chicken which was reminiscent of Knott's Berry Farm fare. The portion, for me, was rather skimpy, but it was all good as long as the pie was good.

Let me just take a moment to say that one of my pet peeves is service that's too damn efficient. Being from the south and, worse yet, a New Orleanian who likes to linger and chat after a meal, I hate it when the server rushes you and your meal under the guise of being efficient. It especially aggravates me when there are other tables available for customers to be served. Dining should be an event and not just a way to appease one's tummy grumbles.

But, this time, we applauded her speed.

Having not quite finished our meal, we happily ordered pie and coffee. Since it is blueberry season, as well as blackberry, we were disappointed to hear the waitress tell us both kinds were freshly made that day and were already sold out. So, Therese ordered  a slice of cherry pie and I had apple, but when the pie arrived we both could tell it wasn't what we had a few years back. The crust wasn't as brown and flaky as it should be and appeared rather soggy with no crumbly crust, per se! The fruit was hidden in between gelatin fill and Therese said she counted only four cherries in her entire slice.

Mine had more fruit than filler, and the apples did have a slight snap to them when you took a bite, but it didn't really have a taste to it. It was like any other product you'd get at any other restaurant or frozen food section... like blandsville! In fact, Mrs. Smith's Apple Pie, that you buy at the frozen food counter, is better than what I had. Sadly, we left with no pies to take home.

As we were walking out the door, a close friend of my sister, who now lives on the east coast, spotted me and Therese leaving and called out to us. They decided to go for a drive from their homes, south of Baton Rouge, to stop at Lea's... for pie! Dopey me would have walked right by her and her riding companion, had she not noticed us. Guess I was still wallowing in my pie-dom. They asked us our opinion and in hushed tones, we spoke of our disappointment.

"It's a long way to drive to have mediocre grub,"I said.

Later that night, having returned from their Sunday excursion, Audrey expressed her disillusionment in an email she sent to me. She said it this way," The pecan pie was bland! How do you make pecan pie bland?" She also mentioned in the email that the owner of Lea's, just a year ago or so, had passed away. What a shame! It's funny in a sad way, how one person can, solely, make such a difference in the world and... in the world of pies!

Obviously, like Mrs. Jo Lou, the recipe died with Mr. Lea and the memory of their gustatory delights is all we have left. It's what legends are all about, for sure, but maybe... just maybe...

We should have just held out for the blueberry pie!

Copyright 2011/Ben Bensen III

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