No More Mr. Nice Pie

No More Mr. Nice Pie
Drawing by Retsu Takahashi

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cartoon Interlude

A kitchen can be a dangerous place. The objects one would assume least likely to inflict pain and suffering have a way of sneaking up on you, stopping you dead in your pie tracks. It’s not necessarily the serrated bread knife that lops off your finger or the 400 degree oven door that singes your forearm. It might very well be the Sharp Cutter Blade rearing it’s ugly self in the Stretch-tite Professional Quality plastic food wrap. (Despite the word “Caution” on the box, I can personally vouch for the sharpness of the cutter blade. Much more impressive than a common burn, this injury cut a wide swath through my left wrist, six weeks ago. Now it just looks like a rope burn; that’s progress.) You think you’re paying attention but it is often the little kitchen tools that can wreak havoc, startling you out of your mid-morning reverie. Case in point, the seemingly harmless zester. I have zested my fair share of both lemons and limes, sans mishap. Over the years, I have removed the fragrant colored part of the peel, leaving the bitter pith behind, from literally cases of citrus sans bloodshed. My pristine record is now ruined by an errant Mineola orange and an overly zealous Microplane grater/zester. Will I survive? Undoubtedly. Does my injury require a bandaid? Absolutely. It is imperative that everyone in the kitchen be made aware of my laceration. What better way to broadcast my bravery than to sport a Band-Aid brand SpongeBob SquarePants adhesive bandage.  

Foraging beneath the espresso machine for a paper towel, I tend to the wound on the second finger of my left hand then blindly scour the first aid kit for a protective covering. Empty except for a box of gauze that could completely encase The Mummy. I stumble back to the kitchen realizing no one has looked up to acknowledge my catastrophic accident. Crestfallen, I rummage through my purse and secure a bandaid from deep within the dark recesses of that zipper compartment reserved for keys and loose change. I wrestle with a far-from-fresh, adhesive bandage, slightly rumpled, the paper wrapper no longer hermetically sealed. These are desperate times requiring immediate action; sterile conditions be damned. I am delighted to see that it is not just any bandaid. Encasing my injured digit in a SpongeBob bandaid, I immediately feel better. One of my cohorts looks up and asks, “Are you finished using the zester?”

I was unaware of the existence of pineapple real estate situated under the sea until Mr. SpongeBob SquarePants graced our television screen. A cleverly written animated series complete with not only food references but an opening song as well! And now the little brown pantalooned-pineapple was emblazoned across my throbbing finger.

Admittedly, I am more familiar with cartoon characters from the 60s. Maybe a bit too familiar in that I can quote dialogue from both the Flintstones and the Jetsons verbatim. (Sibling Barbara of the Pacific Northwest is also fluent in cartoon-speak and although younger, shares responsibility for this talent by imploring me to watch reruns of the aforementioned cartoons with her.)

With my one good hand, I'm still able to steer my rolling pin across  
the rough seas of pie dough and I’m now fixated on two food related cartoons that given my present line of work, are entertaining.

Long before the Food Network, Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble were selected as finalists in a baking contest. The night before the televised bake-off, Wilma and Betty are stricken with the measles. Fred and Barney step in to take their place, preparing the famous Upside-Down Flint/Rubble Bubble Cake. I always assumed the cake was made with pineapple, hence the “Upside-Down” reference.

A pineapple upside-down cake is also featured in the first episode of the Jetsons. Prepared by the Jetson’s new robot maid, Rosey’s home cooking is responsible for impressing George’s boss Mr. Spacely (of Spacely Sprockets) and securing for George both a promotion and a raise.

I’m interrupted from my cartoon interlude by the oven timer. My co-workers are bemoaning the early heat wave and we start trading war stories about Summer Kitchens We’ve Worked In and Loathed. I think I win having logged many restaurant and bakery hours during record-breaking Philadelphia heat waves. The conversation turns to suggestions for turning off the blasted ovens earlier in the day throughout the summer months.  No one seems to blame the Sconers or the Cakers for their contribution to the kitchen heat. It all seems to lie on the shoulders of the Pie Meister. What can I say? If you can’t stand the heat… I’ll bake the pie.

In celebration of a certain SpongeBob SquarePants-loving college graduate who will don her cap and gown next week, I’m thinking of a pie that is most certainly party worthy. After all of this talk about pineapple, I’ve got the perfect recipe. Sure, it requires turning on the oven for a bit. But in the end, the combination of fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and rum spiked whipped cream is practically a tropical vacation in itself. And long before then, barring any pineapple slicing crises, my finger will have healed. (Note to self; Buy More Bandaids.)

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