Simple gratitude…

Tonight I am very grateful for someone I do not know.

Many years ago I used to make my own pie crusts. My kids knew this and they bought me a Boos Block for Christmas one year. It had gone unused ever since. I should probably be ashamed to admit to that, but it was shortly after this that I became the lazy chef that I profess myself being today.

Actually it was not long after that when my many health problems started showing up what seemed like one after another. It was always one thing or another. I could make a million excuses. They would all be that – excuses. They would be the truth from my point of view but it is all perspective. Not everyone sees things from the perspective that I do and thus the problem lays. Perspective is not always fair so we will just call things what they are – excuses – and leave it at that. No one will care if I leave the past where it belongs, right? It is history at this point anyway and it is one that I do not care to drudge up.

The truth is that the Boos Block was left mostly untouched, unused, unloved until this past November when I pulled it out, dusted it off, and have used it enough to start to make up for its neglect. I have to say that I am not sure why I did not use it sooner aside from the fact that the lazy chef in me does not like moving it or cleaning it. It is wonderful. I actually wish that it was a little bigger sometimes. Then I remember that I would have to move it and I am perfectly fine with its size.

The same neglect was left to a cookbook that was bought by my husband 2-3 years ago. I am not entirely sure. It was a cookbook that he bought my older sister and I entitled Dessert University. Now I did look through it quickly initially, but at the time I was not really in the mood to bake much of anything. I was having some health problems and I was at the height of my cookbook dislike stage.

See I am of the mindset that a good cookbook must have pictures. I am driven largely by visual cues. I am not one that can sit down and look at a list of ingredients and immediately think, “that sounds good.” Most of the time I think, “meh.” Nothing that I read sounded good actually. I would look at the list of ingredients and nothing would jump off the page at me. I just could not visualize what I was reading. Sure if I “knew” what the recipe was, I would have an idea what the food item was, but that was about it. However, if you put a picture in front of me with those same lists of ingredients and I would literally start to salivate.

Now this cookbook that Ben bought in all of his “well intentioned” wisdom was a brilliant cookbook and well thought out. He honestly thought that I would love it. Maybe I would have if it was at a time when I was not hating everything I ate because it made me hurt so bad. Maybe if I did not think that every cookbook required a picture because I wanted to see what things should look like. I still to this day feel that cookbooks should have pictures. How do I know that I have done it correctly?

Then this past November happened. I needed a pie crust recipe. It was that simple. I had spent most of October looking online for a recipe. Do you realize how many pie crust recipes there are out there? There are so many out there that it is not funny. I had my recipe that I could probably recover from my “long ago” days, the problem was that I would have to “tweak” the recipe because the recipe called for lard. I would not be able to eat the recipe as it was due to the lard content. Did I really want to modify a recipe and hope it worked out? Thus my quest for the perfect pie crust recipe began. I finally started pulling my cookbooks off the shelf at home. Surely I had one that I could use already on the shelf, right?

The problem I kept running into was that most of them kept calling for shortening. I do not like the taste of shortening. It leaves me with a nasty taste in my mouth and frankly it is just nasty. I wanted to avoid it if I could. I found some recipes with coconut oil but I had never made anything with coconut oil before so I was running a huge risk trying it. My concern was that I was making these for profit so I needed to keep the costs down. I needed something that I could make that was easy and flavorful.

I pulled out the Dessert University cookbook that Ben gave me and read through the various pie crust recipes. I was not 100% sure which recipe to pick because I had this liquid custard base to put in the crust. It was not going to be a liquid base when I was done baking the pie, but it would be until it was completely baked and the custard base set-up. I continued to look in a couple more Betty Crocker cookbooks I had, but I ended up going back to the Dessert University cookbook for some reason. I am not entirely sure. It might have been because the chef that compiled this cookbook provided the reasoning for using the ingredients he did in this particular recipe. I suppose it was for the admission to why he chose an ingredient such as shortening in something like pie crust where you want flavor.

I do not know about you, but when it comes to pie I am not there for just the filling, I am there for the whole pie. Sure I may not eat the thick of the crust if it is a little too browned but I like the whole thing. The crust is part of the pie and it should be just as good.

I have been buying pie crusts for so long, I have been very gun shy on trying. I have to confess, however, that I have not always been as happy with pie crusts that have been bought. I just do not eat pie as often as I used to. Then I found out not too long ago about the hidden places that pork can lurk. I went and checked the frozen pie crusts in my freezer and sure enough lard was on the ingredient list on half of them. I never thought to look at the ingredient list on pie crusts. Why would I? They are made with shortening…except I used to make them with lard. I had never put two and two together. The other half of them had several ingredients I could not pronounce and some of those can be the “hidden source” of pork. Alas, I was slowly providing my own body with toxins it could not handle.

I had no choice, I was going to have become less gun-shy so to speak when it came to pie crusts. No more lazy chef for this girl. What recipe was I going to use? I finally decided on the recipe in the Dessert University cookbook, but I will confess to tinkering with the recipe a bit. See my children know that I cannot leave well enough alone. I will tell you that I have since made the crust as it was stated in the cookbook and when I made the recipe tonight I went back to how I tinkered with it. It was not that it was “bad” when I made it how it was written, it was just that I had done it better and with more flavor.

All of that being said, as I finished up the pie crust tonight for the pecan pies I will be baking in the morning, I had this huge sense of gratitude for the chef that inspired me to try again. I want to send out a huge cry of gratitude to Roland Mesnier tonight for giving me the courage to “just do it” and the strength to just jump on the “pie crust” bandwagon again. If it had not been for his recipe that inspired me, I am not sure I would have made as many pie crusts as I have since Thanksgiving. Tonight I was reminded how easy and how wonderfully fun pie crusts can be.

Sure I did not use his pie crust recipe word for word, but his inspiration has given me the courage to keep cooking those things that are a little more challenging. People may think that I have spent hours slaving in the kitchen for my pecan pies, but because of Roland Mesnier’s inspiration it will not be because of the pie crusts…it will be because Grandma Sansom’s pecan pies take hours to bake…they take hours to bake the love into them…not because I have spent hours slaving over pie crusts that are hard to make or roll out.

The best part about all this? I am ready to try some of the other recipes in the cookbook now. I am excited about trying some of the more challenging things in there. I will confess that this lazy chef is ready to take on more fun things that take time and patience. Maybe I should admit to not being as lazy as I look after all? Oh and those recipes? They were not the ones that actually had the pictures included. Maybe I have learned quite a bit in the experimentation and trials I have had over the past couple of years with baking and cooking?

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