Friday, November 24, 2006

Battle of the Pies

No one had to carry a musket or wear a uniform, but on Thanksgiving in the Woodbourne section of Jamaica Plain, the annual battle occurred. That is the Battle of the Pies.

Combatants this year included:
  • Cherry
  • Cherry Strawberry
  • Buttermilk
  • Sweet Potato
  • Pecan
You may notice that this does not include the Yankee dessert standards of apple and pumpkin. Some years, we include these also-runners, but this is largely a Southern event. For a lot of years, 15 to 20 of us have gathered to swap stories, to drink, to eat, and certainly to wait for the pies.

At least one member of each couple is a Southerner, not like Scituate, rather Arkansas and North Carolina among others. Each of us has a family pie favorite -- past made present on demand.

Now, we gather long before sitting at the big table. There are hors d'oeuvres -- lots. We talk and sing and open another bottle of wine. We laugh about our travails (almost dying from a heart attack for one) and brag gently (a month in Taiwan as a guitar celebrity).

The meal includes Southern dishes as well. Oh, and in memory of a departed guest, we always have pasta.

But we are already talking about the pies shelved within sight. An easy way to fill in those awkward occasional pauses is to say something about the pie you brought or the one you intend to try.

When the sauerkraut, turkey, yams and shells are cleared, we can pretend that we really want the coffee. Instead, we are girded for battle. The phrase Battle of the Pies may elicit slapstick visions of clowns and flying plates. Instead, we are all winners here and the only violence is flashing forks.

This year, I took it as a personal challenge when Kay said she was bringing her pecan pie. There can be no Southern feast without one and hers is perfection. Yet, she always brings two -- a buttermilk one as well.

Yankees may not understand, but below D.C., you can't say, "What, no buttermilk pie!" You could not enjoy the pie if you knew someone was coerced into making it.

This year, I made that other pie, my wife press-ganged two teenage girl guests into rolling out the crust for her variations on cherry, and Jasper brought his wonderful sweet potato.

While we filled our plates with slivers -- to taste some of everything -- the only thing resembling conflict was also a teen-driven one. Kay's daughter saying repeatedly, as teens are wont to do for the benefit of we mentally feeble adults, that the "lemon peel" (actually grated zest) in the buttermilk was not chewy and thus the pie was much better than hers. Any insult, no matter how mild, certainly gains in effectiveness by iteration.

As the washed and dried pie plates left with the guests, we concluded another successful battle.

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