It all started with the “free” lemons. One of the ladies from the Wednesday Women’s group that meets at Kay’s Gringo Postres weekly brought in a sack of freshly picked little lemons from the trees in her yard in Atenas. The fruit is small, but yields copious amounts of juice. It was a grand idea! After all, I had won second place in a baking contest for my lemon meringue pie; I was an expert. Well, let’s see … my son, Tyler, was nine when I entered that contest and now he’s thirty-three.
There would be no cheating with the crust either; in my old life in California, I kept a Trader Joe’s pie crust in the freezer for emergencies. Here, in Costa Rica, I would not be running to the local Pali Mercado for a Pillsbury roll-out package. I was lucky I had a can of Crisco, which Don packed in his suitcase for me. Actually, he packed six cans, and I felt so “Crisco-rich” I gave three away to those less fortunate boomer-bakers who also grew up with the round red, white, and blue can. I have heard that Auto-Mercado and Walmart carries Crisco now, which is a luxury and most likely costs double or triple what we are accustomed to paying.
I hand-squeezed the lemons, strained the pulp and seeds, jarred and froze the extra juice for my next pie, and set about making the crust. Whoever made up that expression, “Easy as pie”? There is nothing easy about it. Just measuring the shortening is annoying. I learned a trick; take a glass measuring cup and fill to 1/2 cup mark with ice cold water. Add the Crisco until the water reaches one cup. Pour the whole thing into your hand (over the sink), flick it off your hand into the bowl with the flour and salt. Now your hand is icky and sticky. Unless you want the flour to stick to your hand, wash thoroughly with soap, and dry well so you can spread the flour on your rolling surface and rolling pin. Rolling pin??? WHERE is my rolling pin? Oy veh!
I was pretty sure I had one; no time to search for it now. The oven was pre-heating, my pie weights (uncooked black beans) were on the counter next to the pie plate, and the dough was ready to roll. I looked for a beer bottle but found none. My eye landed on a stick in the window track. Aha!
I snatched the stick out of the window frame, grabbed a handful of Gold Medal, tossed it on the granite counter, slathered flour on the blue stick, and started rolling out the dough. I kept moving it like mom taught me, so it doesn’t stick to the counter, and kept adding flour to the surface of the rolling pin. When it looked about the right size for the pie plate, I noticed some blue flecks embedded in the dough. Gasp! I hope that broomstick wasn’t painted with lead-based paint! I dug out the flecks with the point of a knife, smoothed the divots with my finger, slapped the dough into the pie plate, crimped the edges, plunked the raw frijoles into the center of the pie, and slammed it into the oven. I shoved the stupid stick back into the window frame. Yes, I washed it first.
What I wanted to do was fling the stick, the pie, and the lemon juice off my balcony! Well, maybe not the juice – I could make lemonade, or better still, Margaritas out of that.
As you know from the photo, the lemon meringue pie came out picture perfect. It was delicious, and quickly devoured. I still haven’t found my rolling pin. I thought I would need it for Thanksgiving; in my family, I have always made the pumpkin pie. After hearing about Tom of the Buen Pan Bakery in Atenas, I am ready to happily hang up my rolling pin.
I promised a lemon meringue pie to one of the ladies in the Wednesday Women’s Group. Maybe she’ll settle for a Margarita!