When she stayed with us, I noticed how her balance was off, how she walked down our hallway with a totter and sometimes a little step backward to catch herself. It’s exactly how Teddy walks down the same hallway one year later.
I thought of her when I placed our order for a Heritage Turkey—the total cost of which will be around $100—by far the most money I’ve ever spent on a single grocery item. I know that Grandma, a purchaser of frozen Butterball turkeys—is rolling in her grave.
And I thought of her just this morning when I wrote the plumber a check for more money than I’ve written a check for in years. Grandma didn’t call service people to come fix things for her. She went to Rolliers, the local hardware store in the suburbs of Pittsburgh where she lived.
But I thought of her most while reading an advance copy of Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Almost Famous Women, a short story collection that explores the lives of talented and gutsy almost famous women throughout history. (To name a few: Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter, Allegra; Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly; Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sister, Norma.) For the most part, these are women of or very close to my grandma’s generation. And as I read, I kept thinking of how capable and resilient they were, two words that come to mind when I think of my grandma (and the opposite of what comes to mind when I think of myself).
And then I got to the story about the reclusive and unapologetically miserable painter Romaine Brooks. The story opens with an epigraph, a quote from Brooks’s notebooks: “We are what we can be, not what we ought to be.”
At which point, I abruptly decided to cut myself some slack.
Because I wasn’t born in 1919. I was born in 1981. I can’t, in good conscience, buy, let alone eat, a Butterball turkey. And I don’t know anything about plumbing. Well, I know now about the water shut-off valve that’s connected to our toilet, which broke, or rather, disintegrated late one night last week, and how water flooded into the bathroom like a hose on full blast that we couldn’t stop up or turn off; it was so shocking that Matt—a pretty handy guy with loads of tools—initially wondered if we should call 911 before he collected himself and ran into the basement to shut off the main water line to the house. (If this had happened while I was alone with Teddy, the house would have surely floated away.)
We are what we can be. And what I can be is a baker of an incredibly delicious pineapple pie.
The story takes place on Joe’s private Caribbean island and involves a love triangle between three women. There’s also some great food scenes as there is a cook on the island, who at one point is “frying johnnycakes on a pan over a fire, popping pigeon peas into her mouth. Everything smelled of fried fish, blistered peppers, and garlic.”
But when the cook serves roasted pineapple for dessert one night, I immediately knew what I wanted to Bon Appétempt as companion piece to the story: this pineapple pie, which came to me by way of Tim from Lottie and Doof. (Plus, it’s Thanksgiving season and I thought that maybe one of you might want to be an iconoclast and show up at your family or friend’s house with this decidedly-not pumpkin pie.)
Or maybe you want to make it because it’s delicious? The egg, sugar, rum, and lime juice create a custard that surrounds the bites of pineapple, and then this is encased in flaky, golden, buttery pie crust.
|Look! My pie slid to one side, just like Tim's!|
Skylight Books (Los Angeles, CA) on 2/3/15
Barnes and Noble (Pittsburgh, PA) on 2/11/15
Quail Ridge (Raleigh, NC) on 2/14/15 (More details to follow)
(Possibly more dates to add, depending on all sorts of things.)
Also, on the off chance this post wasn’t enough to tide you over for a week, here are some other cool things going on around The Net:
An interview I did with the new site, The Short Bread!
Corinne recently launched a new literary journal: The James Franco Review where the goal is "to publish works of prose and poetry as if we were all James Franco, as if our work was already worthy of an editor’s attention." I love this concept and their opposite-of-snarky approach so much. Please read the about section for more info!
Until next time!