After my son reminded me several times today that it was PI Day (March 14 or 3.14), I thought I’d surprise him and make pie. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I decided on banana cream (because everyone likes banana cream), and pecan because there was a never ending bag of pecans from Costco in my fridge.I’m an experienced baker. I’m not a novice. I know how to cook. But pies…well, pies…
It began with my oven catching on fire. Not the oven itself exactly, but a piece of crust from the shell I was baking for the banana cream pie. This was not an unusual event in our house, I’m sad to say. We ended up with a house full of smoke the last time I attempted pie as well. I don’t know why I expected this time to be any different.Due to the unique configuration of my new oven (which reminds me of a Klingon death trap), there was no way I could get the little piece of burning pie crust out of the bottom. I tried and ended up burning my hand almost immediately. And it was emitting so much smoke that my youngest started to keep watch outside for fire trucks.
I decided to abandon all hope and set the oven for self-clean. It burned the heck out of that bit of pie. I was unable to open the door to the oven for about an hour, but eventually all was well and my pie shell was back in the oven.The banana cream filling turned out perfectly. The pecan was a bit of a challenge due to some very sticky corn syrup (think Chevy Chase with sap on his hands in Christmas Vacation). Thankfully the weather was warm today. We were able to open all of our windows and a strong spring breeze blew through our house, taking away all remnants of my kitchen mishap. We were back to normal. But I should have known better. Every time I try to make pies it ends up like this, and there is a very good reason.
I was cursed by a gypsy.I’m not making this up. It really happened. When we were newly married and living in Istanbul, we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for our ex-pat friends. It was a potluck, I was pregnant, and I was put in charge of pies, because pies were my forte. I was good at making pies back then.
The day began with a near disaster. We had two cats (Thelma and Louise), who liked to get a breath of fresh air every morning on our balcony. We lived on the 4th floor, which was actually the 5th floor by American standards. That morning, I let Thelma and Louise out, but only Thelma came back. Louise had fallen off the balcony, landed in the parking lot, and broken her leg.We had thirteen guests coming for dinner (bad number – what was I thinking??), and my husband had to take Louise to the vet to get a cast. I was home alone, and when the doorbell rang, I thought it was my husband. It wasn’t. It was a gypsy.
She was an old lady, selling scarves. I pretended I couldn’t speak Turkish and attempted to close the door. I didn't have time for this. I was in the middle of making pies. She stuck her hand in the door to stop me and asked me over and over again to buy one of her scarves. I was kind of scared. I continued to pretend I couldn’t understand her, and that is when it happened. She muttered something in a language I’d never heard before and spat on my doorstep.I closed the door, a little shaken by the encounter, and went back to making my pie crusts. It was a horrible failure. The dough crumbled in my hands and no matter what I did, it would not stick together. I started again, with fresh ingredients, and the same thing happened. The clock was ticking, our guests were about to arrive, and I had no pies. I found a box of puffed pastry in the fridge and used it for the crust instead. It was a horrible failure. The pumpkin filling was perfect, but the crust was awful.
I’d been cursed by that gypsy. She had doomed my pies to failure.This went on for ten solid years. Finally, I decided I was going to break the gypsy pie curse. I measured carefully, kept my cold ingredients cold and worked quickly. The results were marvelous. I created a pie crust that was flakey and buttery and absolutely perfect. The curse had been broken…or so I thought.
The fourth book I wrote is called Traveller, and it is about gypsies. Granted, it is sci-fi and my gypsies are alien mercenaries battling monsters to save the earth, but they are gypsies nonetheless. I noticed something as soon as I finished writing the book. I think I must have offended the ghost of that old gypsy woman who surely was long dead by now. The curse was back. Once again, I couldn’t make pie.At Thanksgiving my pies were a failure (and I may have had 13 guests once again - never a good idea). At Christmas I didn’t even try (because I had pneumonia, not because of the curse). Today, on PI Day, it was my final attempt to overcome the curse. It didn’t work.
I guess I’ll wait until the final edit is finished, buy a scarf from a gypsy when I visit Istanbul again this summer, and hope that is all it takes to lift the curse once and for all. It couldn’t hurt…right?