Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Last Lockdown adventures

At 11:59pm tomorrow, New Zealand leaves Lockdown Lite (Alert Level 3) and heads to Alert Level 2 (Normal Lite?). Lockdown has affected people in many different ways, but one of the most common is that people have taken on all sorts of projects. I have, too, and today was among my last Lockdown Projects.

The photo above is of a bacon and egg pie I made for tonight’s dinner (and probably two meals tomorrow). When I shared it to Instagram this evening, I said:
Tonight I made a bacon and egg pie, which I’ve made before, BUT this time I made the short crust pastry from scratch—for the first time ever! The pastry recipe I used made pastry that was a bit too small, but I can adjust that next time. This one turned out well, and a new Lockdown Achievement has been achieved, some 30 hours before we “Level Down”.
As is so often the case, there’s more to the story. First, the why: Previous failure.

I last made a bacon and egg pie on April 3, a little more than a week after Lockdown began. I used frozen pastry sheets I had on hand, as I have before, and thought nothing about it. But when it was nearly done baking, I thought it smelled “funny”. I then realised that I’d inadvertently used sweet shortcrust pastry, which is usually used for dessert pies. I said on my personal Facebook:
Tonight I learned that when you inadvertently use sweet shortcrust pastry to make a bacon and egg pie, it's not as awful as it may sound. That's not exactly an endorsement of the method, of course, but it also wasn't a total disaster. In other news, I've decided to learn how to make my own pie pastry.
And so, another project was added to my Lockdown List: Make my own shortcrust pastry. Today was the day, but the truth is that the Sweet Shortcrust Incident was only the spark: The actual origins of this story, and its significance to me, go much farther back.

Many (many!) years ago, Nigel and I went to our friend Annie’s place for dinner. As we sat and talked, Annie mixed the butter and flour for pie pastry for the dessert. She had a bowl in her lap, and mixed away, never missing out on the conversation. Nigel talked about that for YEARS afterward, always with awe and good humour.

Neither of us ever forgot that time, but we also never tried to make pastry from scratch. Never.

Tonight I finally ended that avoidance, and it turned out well. But I was also well aware that it was another thing I did for the first time only after Nigel died. I’ll eventually lose track of such firsts, of course, but right now I do wish he could have sampled my first pastry effort. I know he wouldn’t have talked about it for years afterward, but that’s not the kind of thing that drives me. If he’d liked it, he would have said to me, “Yum! You can make that again.” And that would be all I’d need to hear.

But he’s not here to say that to me, so I thought it to myself instead. It’s the closest I can get, and I’m surprisingly okay with that.

Besides, I did make a nice pie. I can make that again.

And that’s why this simple project was also an important one: I had something to prove to myself, to Nigel (kind of…), and to honour that good time we had with our friend all those years ago. It’s just a part of the process of figuring out who the hell I am now, and sometimes even something as simple as lowly shortcrust pastry can help that process.

I’m just glad it didn’t turn out to be a half-baked idea. You’re welcome.

The pie before I cut it.

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