“It doesn’t have to be anything big,” humorist/essayist David Sedaris said recently at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. He said many more good things about writing, like it can be about something “annoying” or “humbling”, but it was dark where I sat in my half-price seat in the nosebleed section, so I managed to scribble only those few words on my printed-out e-ticket.
So, here goes a story about a little thing. A humbling little thing.
Take, for instance, Thanksgiving–what we’re assigned to bring or cook or whatever. In my family’s tradition, we each bring something. With my husband having taken over the cooking in our house some forty years ago, our hosts always know to assign me something I can buy, namely, relishes: carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower.
One year, I used toothpicks to stab all these things on a large Styrofoam tree. Folks were amazed at my colorful creation; I don’t think they knew that my logical left brain could do anything besides lining up veggies on a tray like books on my shelves.
Another year, I challenged my creative right brain into action; in addition to my veggies, I brought two kinds of hummus with some weird crackers, most of which came home with me. Seems hummus, especially the red beet-flavored one, and unrecognizable crackers hadn’t entered their palates yet.
This year, though, I have a problem. My invitation reads the same—relishes for thirty-five people, but then, like an afterthought, added at the bottom of the page, it says, one pie. Good grief. I’m sure my sister and niece who plan this thing must have chuckled; I can hear their conversation:
Niece: Looks like we’re short one pie for all these people.
Sister: H-m-m-m. Who can we assign it to?
They might even have reminisced about previous pie baker / takers. An older sister was the pie person until she moved away years ago; she was the only one of us who could make fail-proof flaky pie crusts. Younger folks have pitched in now and then, and some years the pies came from a bakery. So why now, did they assign me, who has done nil in the kitchen for most of my marriage to bring a pie?
I can hear more of their conversation:
Niece: But does she even bake?
Sister: (Laughing) No, but she can pick up a bakery pie as easily as anyone else.
Well, I’m going to show them. I found a recipe for a supposedly fail-safe crust. You just mix the stuff with your hands: you don’t even attempt to roll it into some recognizable shape, you don’t have to resurrect the rolling-pin from your bridal shower fifty-three years ago, you don’t have to scrape old moldy dough off the rolling pin’s cover, and you don’t have to scrounge for the similarly moldy-dough-packed towel that came with it that you haven’t used for probably thirty-nine years. All you have to do is push it, the stuff you’ve mixed with your hands, into place in your pie plate.
Sounds doable, right? Any splits, tears, blobs, just press them flat, together, or whatever the stuff needs to look like a bottom pie crust. Top crust? Simple. Just form balls of the stuff and crumble that on top of your filling and hope it coalesces into something resembling a pastry-chef-designed covering that is fluted around the edges
I was so happy with my ingenious solution, but in telling my husband, he stopped me short with: “Do you even own a pie pan anymore?”
Spoil sport! I haven’t looked yet, but I have a few more days to figure this out.
Overall, of course, in the complex world of today, not having the knack of making a pie crust is not a big thing. But I believe David Sedaris is right when he says that what you write about doesn’t have to be big. If it’s important to you, it’s important.
And you never know–someone else may be caught up with a similar little thing that is similarly humbling and will feel better having read about your plight.
Perhaps we can all laugh, and give thanks, together.