Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eating Humble Pie

Since my dad passed away, I have thought of him every day. Some days more than others and certain times with more 'clarity' if I may be so bold as to use that word. There is a way sunlight breaks through clouds, for example, that I can't quite describe, but when I see it, I know he's up there watching. One such enlightened moment was during one of the hunting trips last fall.

I saw that beam of light and could tell he was with us. I asked him to send some geese our way as we hadn't seen any for quite some time. I should have followed up that request with better aim because when Daffy and Co. landed, I, as my cousin would later explain it, did nothing but "fill the air with lead."

Another activity that always flips the lid on my dad memory box is puttering around a garden. Most often his, but even in my little plot on Ninth St, getting dirt under the nails makes me think of his Tilly hat moving around behind a row of raspberry canes.

And when I harvest something from his garden, especially anything from seeds he had collected and dried, it tastes just a little bit sweeter. This year's rhubarb, though not from a seed, still came from a plant he had started years ago. I thought it an opportune time to take some of those gorgeous pink and red stalks and continue to build on his legacy and incorporate it into a passion of my own.

Yes boys and girls, it's county fair season again. And that means look out, cause this year, that circuit is mine.

Saturday morning, as I rolled out of bed of 5:30, I thought to me self, "what on earth am I doing?" Why would anyone in their right mind get up so bloody early on one of their precious days off? And then I remembered, Millbrook is calling.

That early hour normally wouldn't have been too bad, but I had been up until 2:00 AM baking pies, one apple and one, of course, rhubarb. I wanted the crust to remain flaky, and light to be sure, so baking the pies too early was out of the question.

"All items for the home craft competition MUST, yes it was underlined, be delivered by 8:15 AM" read the rules and regulations. Never having been to Millbrook before but Google maps indicating is was 2 hours away, I wanted to be on the road by 6:00. Well 6:30 really, but IronMan insisted we leave a buffer.

Just as well we did too. For it not only rained, it poured. All the way. I feared all the humidity would be bad for the crust. But I forgot just how good I am at this and that there was nothing to fear.

As IronMan dozed in the passenger seat, I thought I was mad as a radish. Baking at midnight to win a little satin ribbon? Who does that? Moreover, that same lunatic then gets up before the rooster crows to drive to a rain soaked field in the middle of nowhere to beat a bunch of blue hairs out of what they must consider their birthright.

It was during this Q & A in my head, that dad popped in and said "hello." I figured this was what it was like for him, driving my brother to hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, basketball and all manner of sports competitions throughout the year. My sister put him through his paces too. Ringette, swimming and who remembers what else.

Don't get me wrong. He played chauffeur for me as well. I was just more practical in my taxi service requests - trips to the mall, theatre, concerts and later, picking me (and my friends) up after a 'night out'. Things people could do at civilized hours.

I felt surely this pie excursion was more appealing than any sport outing. The smell of fresh baked goods filled the car instead of sweaty sneakers and musty jockstraps. There would be charming town's folk to great us with a "fine day isn't it, friend?"

As Liza turned on to Frederick St., I locked the doors. The front yards of the two houses directly across from the fairgrounds were littered with pop-up trailers, empty beer cans, assorted boxed wines, cigarette packets and at least on body. From what I could tell, they had passed out in front of a long extinguished fire.

Arriving at 7:45, I stepped out of the car in my flock lined Wellingtons and found no one in the presentation 'hall' and no one to receive me nor my pies. I did however spy my entry tags on the table so knew I was in the right place. Kathy arrived about 10 minutes later and I was able to help her unload her car (and hopefully make the right impression). She may not have been a judge, but she must have some influence.

After an excrutiating wait, I just got word about my first blue ribbon of the season! Clearly, a wise & sensible pie connoisseur had been in charge of the apple tasting. I am almost certain that the person I saw passed out by the fire pit was in charge of the rhubard category, as I was only awarded a third place finish. THIRD! A county fair outrage if ever I heard of one. I'll use that ribbon to wipe the tears of the person I crush at the Orono Fair.

I had done two different crust crimp styles and two different vent cuts so the judges wouldn't know they were baked by the same person. Clearly, or at least obvious to me, they wanted to 'share the wealth' so to speak and figured out by the superior quality of the product that I had made both winners and for that I was punished for flying to close to the sun.

Too be fair, my rhubarb did boil over and I think that was my downfall. Lesson learned.

All in all, a good start to the season.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What happens to the rest of the pie after the judge takes his/her bite?

5:11 AM  
Blogger Robert Mitchell L.L. said...

they sell it at auction to raise money for the fair.

apple sold for $12
and my terribly undervalued rhubarb went for $6

10:06 AM  
Blogger Blair said...

Those bumpkins obviously can't appreciate a superior rhubarb pie! Outrage!

4:50 AM  

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