Failure at Cooking: Strawberry Pie

strawberry-pie“I have an idea”, my cousin announced over the phone.”Oh, yeah?” I couldn’t hide my concern. Usually when anyone tells me they have an “idea”, it’s usually time to reach for the aspirin.

“In all the years we’ve been alive, we’ve NEVER had a family BBQ at the house. Let’s have one for this 4th of July. I would really like to make some good memories for the boys.”

I wracked my brain for “good memories”. To me, 4th of July was filled with the sound on my mom screaming in terror every time my neighbor set off fireworks. Every time she heard the slightest “Boom”, she would run to make sure that the roof wasn’t on fire from “dah ashes from dah firevorks”.

Despite the fact that I had already made plans, I decided that I would find some way to cancel them so I could spend time with my family. I want my cousin’s children to have happy, non-traumatic memories , so I if that means I have to make sure that my mother doesn’t get naked in front of them like our last vacation, so be it.

“Great idea. I’ll bring dessert.”

As soon as I hung up the phone, I started to get grand ideas about baking an award-winning pie. I’ve always been a little annoyed that my mother assumes that I just don’t know how to cook because she never bothered teaching me. Despite the fact that I’ve been known to cause a few explosions, I wanted to prove to her for once that I’m capable of making a simple dessert. I mean, how hard could it be?

Since I am a huge fan of “Pushing Daisies”, here is the recipe I picked:


“I’m going to a family barbecue, darn it, and I’m going to make Ned’s Strawberry Pie,” I announced to my roommate.

He looked at his watch. “Okay, it’s July 3rd and technically, it will be July 4th in approximately an hour. You should probably start baking now if you are going to make it to your family’s tomorrow morning in all the traffic.”

“To the 24-Hour Acme!” I declared, standing in my most dynamic superhero pose.

” Steph, you’re so weird,” he said as he grabbed his wallet.

I love shopping in the wee hours of the morning. This gives me an opportunity to leisurely browse the selections while avoiding all the screaming children or soccer moms pushing past me to save fifty cents on toilet paper. While my roommate placed approximately 87 cases of soda in the cart (“They’re on sale for $2 a case! What a deal!”), I painstakingly selected freshest, most delectable organic strawberries I could find.  I even hand-picked some “Jersey Fresh” corn and all the ingredients to make the pie shell from scratch. I was confident that this was shaping up to be the Best-First-American-style-4th-of-July-Barbecue ever.

As I was walking to grab a can of whipped cream, a store employee ran up to me and said, “Ma’am, you’re going to need to check out right now because we need to do a complete system reboot. We’re going to go offline in ten minutes.”

“Okay, I just need to grab some whipp-”

“No, ma’am, you need to go right this second.”

I sighed. “FIIINE.”

I called to my roommate in the sugary cereal isle and we walked to the front. There was only one line open:  the dreaded self-checkout. We waited patiently as the guy in front of us tried helplessly to scan a pineapple. After about five minutes of failure, he attempted to pay and the computer started making a weird beeping noise. A few minutes later, a cashier walked over to him to help him swipe his card with her supposed advanced card swiping skills. More beeping. The poor guy was probably charged seventeen times for that stinking pineapples.

My roommate rolled his eyes. “ABANDON SHIP!” he declared, storming towards the door. I looked back at my cart – the corn I so choosily chose. My heavenly strawberries. The $2 soda.

“But…” I looked over and the cashier was still swiping and muttering to herself.

I sighed yet again. Failure. I started to pull the cases of soda out of the cart and stack them on the endcap.

“Stop that!” my roommate yelled. “It’s the store’s fault, Stephanie, leave the cart or I’m leaving you!”

I looked at my strawberries for one last time as we dashed out the door. I still feel guilty for abandoning that shopping cart.

We drove over to the 24-Hour Walmart, which was oddly packed for the late hour. I walked to the produce isle and immediately saw what scientists might classify as “corn”. It had looked like a mob had come in, shucked all the corn halfway,  and thrown the corn silk around like confetti. I looked at the scene, thought of all the grubby fingers that had fondled the cobs, and thought better of buying any.

From where I stood, I could see a giant pile of strawberries glowing bright red in the fluorescent lights. As I walked over, I noticed an ever-so-slight fowl smell.  I stooped Many of the strawberry pints were covered in a greenish gray mold, and the strawberries that seemed fresh had hoards of gnats flying all around them. A few strawberries had rolled out from the pints and had been smashed into the grates in the store display. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that one of these smashed strawberries  had an actual human bite mark in it. Super-Failure.

I walked over to the bakery aisle to see if I could just buy some kind of pre-made fruit pie. They were all overpriced and the first few ingredient were Maltodextrin, Potassium Bromate, and Aspartame. My rule of thumb is that I need to be able to pronounce at least the first four ingredients in anything I eat, so the pie was suspect. I ended up buying some $2 cookies because they at least had familiar ingredients like “flour” and “sugar”, and leaving the horrible store.

Since I saved time on baking, I decided to just drive up to my cousin’s house, sneak in with my spare key, and just crash over there to avoid the morning commute. Everything was going smoothly, until I tried to get off at our exit on the Turnpike. I noticed that all the  EZ Pass lanes were blocked off, so I had no choice but to go to the Cash-Only Lane.

We were at a standstill, so I had time to sift around my car for change. I had pulled out about $1.50 from my seats and I noticed that we hadn’t even moved an inch.

I waited. And waited. And waited.  Even in the late night, the heat was unbearable. The air conditioning in my car doesn’t exactly work correctly, so I opened a window and prayed for a breeze.

Somehow, even though there were only about twenty cars in front of me, it took over an HOUR to crawl up to the gate.

“Um, sir, I’m don’t have a ticket because I have an EZ Pass.”

“All our computers are down, Ma’am. If you want to go through, you have to fill out this form, I need to take down your pass and plate number, and we’ll bill you later.”

I couldn’t believe it. For the second time that night, technology had failed me.  As I threw my change back down onto my seat, I noticed that my cheap Walmart cookies that were starting to melt and buckle in the humidity. EPIC failure.

I worried that this rough start was just an omen for the events to come.

To be continued.