Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Annual Paean to the Blueberry

Once upon a time, my path crossed with a woman named Patry Francis. She was a writer and I was a writer, and she told a story about a long-ago time when she had been served a blueberry pie at the home of Marilynne Robinson, where Patry had the good fortune of being a dinner guest. The pie was not your usual blueberry pie--it had a layer of whipped cream and a layer of blueberries--and Patry remembered it fondly all those years, hoping to someday encounter it again. In stepped I, who was certain that I had the recipe for this very pie--from an old issue of Gourmet magazine. I sent her a copy (she lived on Cape Cod, whereas I live in Illinois), and we vowed to make this pie to honor the serendipity of our friendship and this pie-discovery and our writing muses (who always need honoring in whatever form they happen to take). 
      We have made this pie for multiple years now--she on the East Coast, me in the Midwest. Patry has written about it on her blog. I have written about it on my blog. Others have baked the pie and written about it on their blogs. One year, Patry was very sick, and I wasn't sure she would be able to make the pie, but she did nonetheless. One year, my muse was the little tomboy-girl Sal, from Blueberries for Sal. One year, I shared the pie with my book group. One year I shared it with my neighbors at our block party. Every year, I worry (but every year a little less) about whether the blueberries will cook down during their session in the pot with the sugar and corn starch (they seem so dry; it seems so impossible that they could transform).This year I was practically serene during this phase. 
    This year, I made the pie in phases--the crust on Sunday, then into the freezer with it; the cooked blueberry part before dinner last night, so it had time to come to room temperature then sit in the refrigerator for its allotted time before pie-construction would be permissible. Whipping the cream came after dinner, then assembly, then back to the refrigerator for another prescribed spell before eating. 
     My daughter is home for a visit, and I waited to make it so that she would be here to enjoy it with me. I have done this other years as well. We have what we call a pie party well after dinner each night. She eats very slowly to make it last.

Since Patry and I began making pies, we have both published novels; she has a contract for a second (which is in the editing phase), and I have a pretty solid draft of a second one, which is nearing readiness but not quite ready to head out into the world. Patry and I cannot attribute all this literary productivity to the pie effect on the muse, but why not attribute at least some of it?
     My daughter pointed out that my pie is a little different this year, and I do agree. The crust is a little crustier (in an excellent way, I think), and there seems to be something a little different too about the way the blueberries settled onto the cream. And why shouldn't things be a little different from year to year over all these years? Below is the photo of this year's pie, which I placed next to an image from my desk calendar. I chose this calendar because its theme is magic, and for every week, it has a vintage poster or photo depicting magic in some form.
     My new novel has circus and magic and illusion as one of its themes, and so I chose the calendar for inspiration. And now to the pie.


About Me said...

Ah. That time of year again. Glad that the pie is crustier.

Susan Messer said...

Yes, that time of year. The bounty of summer. Thanks for stopping by.

Patry Francis said...

Ah, the pie looks marvelous, and I'm very interested in that crustier crust. I wonder what figure in the vintage poster most resembles your muse...Could it possibly be the man, or do muses always have to be female? Questions to ponder.

I will be baking and believing soon.

Susan Messer said...

I think the muse might actually be the crescent moon, now that you mention it, Patry dear.

I think the crust might have been crustier because (1) I forgot a step (a kind of light kneading that one does before rolling it in a ball and stashing it in the refrigerator and (2) the crust went directly from the freezer to the oven, which does some kind of chemical thing that I think is for the best. said...

Another year; another pie. Could you slip some through the Internet?

Susan Messer said...

One day we will likely be able to do such things.