Twin Peaks Dark Chocolate Cherry Pie

 

The cult classic Twin Peaks is returning to television this week. Which means coffee “black as midnight on a moonless night” and cherry pie will also be making a comeback.

Since few things are darker than Special Agent Dale Cooper’s investigation of Laura Palmer’s death, I decided my cherry pie had to reflect that. So I painted the base of my shell with melted 85% dark chocolate before filling it with the darkest sweetest cherries I could find.

Below is the recipe. I hope you like it.

 

Ingredients for the pie shell and top crust:

170 g cold unsalted butter

400 g cold flour

1 tsp cold Crisco (or another vegetable shortening like Trex)

1/4 c ice water

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 egg yolk (save the white for later)

1 tsp caster sugar

a pinch of sea salt

10 g dark chocolate

 

Method: Cut the fat into the dry ingredients (excluding the chocolate). You can do it with a fork or pastry cutter or blitz them in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Shape the dough into two disks. Cover them with plastic wrap and chill them in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Place a rack in the lower middle position of the oven and preheat it to 425°F/220°C/Gas7.

Roll out one round and place it in a 9″ pie dish. Line the dough with baking paper and fill with weights.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the parchment and weights.

Poke some shallow holes in the crust with a fork then return it to the oven. Bake it for another 5 minutes or until the crust looks dry.

Turn off the oven and remove the pie shell. Allow it to cool completely.

While it’s cooling, melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler. Once the chocolate has melted, use a kitchen brush to paint it on the bottom of the pie shell. Allow the chocolate to cool.

Now it’s time to make the pie filling.

 

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.

 

Ingredients for the filling:

750 g pitted cherries (I mix sour cherries with sweet cherries)

1/4 c corn starch

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup caster sugar (add enough to suit your taste)

the juice of 1 lemon

a pinch of salt

a drop of vanilla extract

 

Method: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. If your cherries are very juicy, you can cook down the liquid sans cherries until it thickens up a bit. Pour the filling into the chocolate lined pie shell. Roll out your top crust and place it over the filling.

 

Brush the top of the pie with a bit of egg white. Sprinkle it with Demerara sugar if you have any to hand.

Bake the pie for 25 minutes on the middle rack.

Then reduce the heat to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is brown.

Allow the pie to cool before serving. This will give the filling time to set. If you cut into it while it’s still hot, the filling will run allover the place.

 

Fish Pie

If you observe the liturgical calendar and give up meat during the Lenten season, this is a wonderful dish.  Even if you don’t. . . It’s delicious–warm and comforting like a pie but with the briny goodness of the sea.  I tend to make it when it’s cold outside and need a meal that’ll stick to my ribs.  For me, fish pie is the lunch or dinner equivalent of steel cut oats with almonds and berries at breakfast.  It’s a dish that will warm you and make you feel like a winner and keep you going for hours.  Frankly, it’s what I like to imagine the Royal Navy and RAF had before defeating the boys in Das Boot.

 

First make your mash:

1 kg  floury potatoes , peeled, and boiled

50g butter

2 heaping tablespoons crème fraiche

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

 

Method: Once the potatoes are soft, drain them then put them back in the pot with the other ingredients.  They should be quite thick.

At this time you should preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.

 

For the sauce:

75g butter

75g plain flour

450ml of whole milk

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp lemon zest

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 teaspoon English mustard powder

2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

a small bunch of dill, chopped

salt and pepper

 

Method: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When it starts to bubble, quickly whisk in the flour.  Whisk constantly to avoid sticking.  Do this over a low flame for a minute or two.  Let this roux thicken but do not let it brown.  Take the roux off the flame and whisk in a bit of milk.  When it’s incorporated add the rest of the milk and return to the heat.  Keep whisking.  When the sauce looks thick enough, remove it from the flame and add all remaining ingredients.  Mix well and be sure to remove the bay leaves before using.

 

roux

 

Now add the seafood and construct your pie:

1kg of mixed offcuts from the fishmonger (I use prawns, regular cod, smoked cod, and salmon)

Be sure the fish has no bones in it and has been cut into 1″ chunks.

Method: Put the seafood in the bottom of a deep ceramic dish.  Pour the sauce over the top.  Next, spoon on the potato mash.  Use a fork to make ridges in this top layer.  Grate a little cheese (I use parmesan and cheddar) over everything and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden brown and the sides are bubbling.  I like to serve this with peas.

fish layers draw a fish add cheese fish pie

Mercy Pie

Christmas is one of those holidays that can be equal parts magic and mayhem.  I love it but it is also a stressful time for a great many people.   Travel delays, stroppy children, dwindling bank accounts, family feuds, maxed out credit cards, roasts gone awry, or a mother-in-law who still corresponds and exchanges holiday cards with your husband’s ex-girlfriend though you’ve been married for 5 years and have a child.  What I’m saying is there are many things to get on your nerves and make you feel grouchy when you want to feel merry.

In 1966 alto saxophonist, Cannonball Adderley, performed a song his pianist wrote.  He gives an introduction to the piece that he delivers like a church sermon:

You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity.  When it happens sometimes, we’re caught short.  We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes we don’t know just what to do when adversity takes over.  And I have advice for all of us.  I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune and it sounds like what you’re supposed to say when you have that kind of problem.  It’s called Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

If you listen you’ll hear that this song has a 20 bar structure with 4 distinct sections just as this pie has 4 distinct sections–pastry, oatmeal, pecans, and pears.  It’s a dessert  that serves the comfort of a crumble in a buttery crust with a pear and oatmeal center that’s soft and treacly while still providing a bit of crunch thanks to the chopped pecans. Basically it tastes of clemency and feels like a hug.  Which is exactly what I want and sometimes need during the holidays especially when I’m crying mercy, mercy, mercy.  So whether it’s a slice for yourself or somebody else, try spreading a little around this festive season.  It might be just what your heart needs to get you feeling the love and magic again.

 

Merry Christmas, readers, and happy new year!

 

Ingredients:

1/2 recipe of only the best brisée ever

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs beaten

3/4 c golden syrup

1/4 c melted butter, slightly cooled

2 tsp vanilla

1 c uncooked oatmeal

1 c chopped pecans

1 c peeled chopped pear

 

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4
Roll your crust and place it in your pie dish.  Crimp the edges then set it to chill in the fridge while you make the filling.
shell
In a large bowl combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.  In another bowl combine the eggs, golden syrup, butter, and vanilla.  Slowly pour the dry ingredients into the wet.  Stir well.
Next incorporate the oats, pecans, and pears.
oatmeal
pears and pecans
Pour the filling into your shell.
pre-bake
Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.  When it’s finished, allow the pie to cool.  This will give the filling a chance to firm up a bit as the insides are so caramelly and soft.
post-bake crust treacle pool sorry for the flourescent light Marisa with pie

Every Feeling Has a Flavor (a winter pie recipe)

I’ve always said if you want to know what’s going on in my life, observe what’s going on in my kitchen.  My girlfriends used to say they knew how my love life was going just by tasting the pies I baked.  Dark chocolate and berries meant heartache while ginger apple or peach meant happiness.  For me, every feeling and life event has a flavor.  Some are happy like My Best Friend Got into Harvard Pie.  Some aren’t like He Stood Me up on the 4th of July Pie.  Some are more mundane like the recipe I’m about to share with you.

So of course I loved Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film, Waitress. The story centers around a woman named Jenna Hunterson who bakes whatever she’s feeling into a pie. Though the details of our lives are very different, I found it easy to identify with this character because of the way she expresses herself through baked goods.

Some of her creations include “Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie, lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in.  Flambéed of course.”  “I Hate My Husband Pie, you make it with bittersweet chocolate and don’t sweeten it.”   “Earl Murders Me Because I’m Havin’ an Affair Pie, you smash blackberries and raspberries into a chocolate crust.”  “I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong and I Don’t Want Earl to Kill Me Pie, vanilla custard with banana.  Hold the banana. . . ” “Baby Screamin’ Its Head off in the Middle of the Night and Ruinin’ My Life Pie, New York-style cheesecake brandy brushed and topped with pecans and nutmeg.”

In the film, a friend of Jenna’s offers her words of encouragement about her career.  “You don’t even know what you are deep inside.  You’re not just some little waitress.  Make the right choice.  Start fresh.”  Replace the word waitress with actress or housewife and there I am.  Another woman baking her feelings into pie and working on recreating herself so she can emerge a different butterfly.  Or maybe a bat.

Recently it’s been so damn cold I’ve felt like Imma die if I don’t have some pie.  So that’s what this recipe is: It’s so Cold Imma Die if I Don’t Have Some Pie Pie.

3 bramleys, 2 cox apples, 4 bosc pears, and 6 Jerusalem figs.  It’s not a combination I’d usually put together but it’s what I had in my fruit bowl.  So it’s what I used as I really didn’t want to leave the flat.  Luckily, I also had some pâté brisée in the fridge because that’s just the sort woman I am.  I peeled and sliced the apples and pears, cut the figs into thin rounds, added 3/4 cup of sugar, some butter, and a squeeze of lemon juice before adding a palimpsest of pastry hearts for a top crust.  I brushed the pie with heavy cream and sprinkled it with demerara sugar before baking.  Halfway through, I poured the liquid out of my pie.  I put it in a pot and reduced it down to a syrup that I then poured over the pie.  I finished baking it until it was golden and the top slightly glazed with my caramel fruit syrup.  I ate it while it was still hot and washed it down with a strong cup of tea.  And guess what?  I lived.  But only because of this pie.

whole pie sliced pie pie fruit pie fruit cu

*I feel the need to add this link to the Adrienne Shelly Foundation. She was the writer/director of Waitress and this NPO honors her memory by supporting women filmmakers. http://adrienneshellyfoundation.org/

 

Sweet Potato Pie with Pecans and Molasses

This is the James Brown of pies, y’all.  Which is to say it’s got soul and will make you feel good.  It’s a conflux of flavors that combines two of my favorite pies–sweet potato and sticky pecan.  Never let it be said in my presence that less is more.

Ingredients:   

For the sweet potato part:

1/2 recipe of only the best brisée ever

approximately 1 lb. of sweet potatoes

1/4 cup softened unsalted butter

the zest of an orange

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

 

For the sticky pecan topping:

1 large egg

3 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses

2 teaspoons of light brown sugar

1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter

a pinch of salt

1 cup of chopped pecans

 

Method:

While your paté brisée is chilling in the refrigerator, bake your sweet potatoes.  Scrub them, pierce them with a fork, and place them on a baking tray covered with foil.  I bake mine for about an hour at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas4.

pre-baked potatoes

Allow them to cool while you blind bake your pie crust for about 15 minutes at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas4..  When it’s close to finished, brush it with egg white and place it back in the oven for another minute or so.

Next, spoon out the soft caramelized center of the sweet potatoes and add them to a large mixing bowl.

caramelized baked sweet potato

 

Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Use a whisk to smooth out lumps.

mix

Pour the mixture into your partially baked shell.  Bake for 30 minutes.

During this time, mix together the ingredients for your sticky pecan topping.

After half an hour, remove the pie from the oven.  Evenly spoon the topping over the pie and place it back in the oven.  Bake for another 15-20 minutes.

When the pie is finished, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool.  Serve with a whipped cream of your choice.  For this recipe, mine is cinnamon whipped cream.  I highly recommend it.

baked pie with topping sticky pecans cross section slice

 

 

Apple Custard Pie

My darling husband, Henry, eats like a Dickensian fat man.  Don’t get me wrong.  He likes and eats plenty of fruit and vegetables, but what he really loves is meat, game, offal, wine, port, sherry, and cheese.  My point is he’s just not that into sweets.  He eats them to indulge me, but for the most part, my baking endeavors are lost on him.  He’d rather have another helping of roast beast.  That said, there is one thing he never shies from–apple pie.  Below is my recipe for apple custard pie.  Is it good?  Well Henry asked for seconds so yeah.  It’s really good.

Ingredients:

1/2 the dough from Only the Best Brisée Ever

1/4 cup apricot jam

1 tablespoon dark rum

1/4 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

the zest of 1 lemon and a wedge for squeezing some juice

4 large eggs (1 for brushing the edges of your pie crust and 3 for the custard)

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 large tart apples

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons demerara sugar

cinnamon

nutmeg

a tablespoon of cinnamon sugar (1 tbsp sugar + 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon)

powdered sugar

 

Method:

First, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.  Now we’re going to prepare the pie shell.  Roll the cold brisée dough as thin as you can.  I roll mine on baking paper so I can easily flip it over into my tin.  It’s a really easy way of doing things.  Cut the edges and roll or crimp them however you like.  Prick the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork and brush the edges with egg.  Line the shell with foil or baking paper then pour in some pie weights.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Remove the weights and cool completely.

pie shell

While waiting for the pie shell to dry, heat the 1/4 cup of apricot jam and the tablespoon of dark rum in a saucepan over low heat.  Stir often and when it starts to look like a glaze, remove it from the heat.  Strain the mixture into a little bowl.  When the pie shell has cooled completely, brush this glaze along the bottom and sides of your shell.  Allow it to dry. Now onto the custard.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and the zest of a lemon.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in three large eggs.  Set this aside.

Heat the 3/4 cup heavy cream in a saucepan on medium heat.  Just as it begins to boil, turn it off, and allow it to cool for a minute.  Then quickly whisk it into the egg mixture.  Add 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste.

custard

Peel and slice the apples.  Sauté them in butter with a teaspoon or so of cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg.  Allow the apples to soften but do not let them get mushy.  Squeeze them with lemon juice and stir just before removing them from the heat.

spiced apples

Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles in the pie shell.  I use two forks to do this.

concentric

Now pour the custard over the apples and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

shell with applesBake at 350°F/180°C/Gas 4 for 25-30 minutes or until the custard has set.  Once it has, allow the pie to cool then dust with powdered sugar.  Put the pie under the broiler for a few minutes to let the sugar caramelize.  Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

finished

Cut into slices and serve.

slice

 

 

Lemon Icebox Pie

It’s no secret some of my family can be described as country. Some have owned trailers; others homes in Appalachia with dirt floors. Many own guns. Many love 4 wheelers and most have driven at least 60 miles for the nearest good mall. All have grown up on or near a farm. And in case you didn’t know, yes, my mama was 15 years old when she had me.

So while the way of life I just described wasn’t exactly mine when I was growing up in Los Angeles, I still saw and lived it at least once a year. Generally in the summertime when the lightning bug lit fields of Iowa provided my cousins and I with a playground until well after dark. My point is a person cannot escape her past. No matter how hard she tries, the highfalutin schools she attends, or the manners she acquires, some things are inescapable. Like a hankering for icebox pies.
Despite growing up in Hollywood where there are people as unctuous as Texas gold, I could never hide my country roots. I considered multitasking doing anything with curlers in my hair. And even now in London, much to my Scottish mother-in-law’s chagrin, I use Mason jars as opposed to proper drinking glasses. Why? I prefer them. Also, they remind me of running around barefoot in cut summer grass eating icebox pies during the dog days of a prairie summer. You know those days that are so hot and humid walking down the street feels more like wading in lukewarm buttermilk and every living creature stands still waiting for a breeze, even the flowers? That’s American Midwest summer. During this time only icebox pies will do.
A friend of mine’s grandmother, a Kentuckienne named Miss Hampton, used to say the icebox pie was her favourite. When asked why, she replied. “It requires no cookin’. Just an icebox and a vodka and Coke plus a pack of Kools to pass the time.”
     While I love icebox pies, be cautioned. ‘Tis a slippery slope. Just one slice has been known to lead people to droppin’ Gs and addin’ As to thangs. They also lead to a simple kind of happiness. The kind that can only be found in Bobbie Gentry songs, Kodachrome prints from years past, and Great-Grandma’s icebox of course.multitasking-curlers

baldwin sthermie

my sister trying to steal a pigletRight. Enough of nostalgia. It’s time to tie your hair back with your favorite kerchief and get bakin’. Never in the history of ever has an icebox pie made itself.   P1020859

Graham Cracker Crust

Ingredients:

14 graham crackers or 1 packet of Hobnobs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons melted butter

Method:

In a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients until they become a fine meal.  Slowly add the melted butter and pulse some more.  Pour the mixture into a 9″ tart tin and press it evenly against the bottom of the dish as well as up the sides.  I use the bottom of a measuring cup to help.  Place the tart tin on a tray and bake for 5-8 minutes at 350°F/170°C/Gas 3 or just until slightly crisp.

shell

Graham Cracker Trash Lemon Icebox Pie

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker crust  (if you don’t have graham crackers use HobNobs)

2 (14 oz.) cans of sweetened condensed milk

1 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

the zest of 4 lemons

8 large egg yolks

Method:

Heat the oven to 325°F/170°C/Gas 3.

Put the crust into a 9″ tart tin.  I like to use a measuring cup to help me do this.  I use the bottom of the cup to spread the crust evenly and to tamp it down as well as to help shape the sides.

Whisk the milk with lemon juice and set aside.

lemon juice and condensed milk

Whisk the zest into the yolks until the mixture goes pale.  This takes no more than a minute.

yolks and zest

Now whisk the milk mixture into egg mixture.

Pour into the tart shell and bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set like a soft custard.

pre-bake

Cool completely then freeze overnight or at least 6 hours.

freezing

Remove the pie from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.  Top with chantilly cream and enjoy.

out of the freezer

Chantilly Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I like to use vanilla bean paste)

1/4 cup powdered sugar

whipped cream ingredients

Method:

Mix ingredients on medium high until desired consistency is achieved.  Be sure not to over-mix or you’ll end up with butter.

cream

lemon icebox pie

Blue Horizon Pie

You know those days that are so hot and humid walking down the street feels more like wading in lukewarm buttermilk?  That was Friday in London.  Every living creature stood still waiting for a breeze.  Even the flowers.  It was like summer in the American South.  Everything limp and languid and smelling stronger than usual.  That night, the moon hung like a giant peach glowing in the sky.  A giant Georgia peach.  The Summer Solstice was upon us.

The next day, I arose with tender thoughts of home and a yen to bake a Blue Horizon pie.  It’s basically a lemon chess pie but I call it Blue Horizon as it reminds me of the song by Sidney Bechet.  Each note hanging as long as it can just like each flavor does in every bite.  Sticky and salty and lemony sweet.

Photo on 2013-06-23 at 21.10

Ingredients:

1/2 pâte brisée recipe

1 cup granulated or caster sugar

1 cup demerara or turbinado sugar (for crunch)

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 whole milk or evaporated milk for extra richness

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

4 large eggs lightly beaten

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 tablespoons lemon zest

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC/Gas 7.

Roll out pâte brisée and fit to a 9″ tart pan.  Prick the bottom of the pie dough with a fork.  Line the pastry with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans.  Put the tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove the weights and whatever material you used to line the pastry.  Return to the oven and bake for 3 more minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine all other ingredients saving the eggs for last.  Incorporate those by gently stirring them into the mixture.

Place the tart pan on the cookie sheet.  Now pour the mixture into the pie shell.  Turn the oven temperature down to 350ºF/180ºC/Gas 4.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy.  I always serve this with a dollop of Greek yogurt for extra coolness and tang.

*I must add that my gorgeous friend, Miss Danielle Bell, over at de Porres is Queen of Most American Pies.  And that a classic chess pie is one of her specialities.  Please check it out.

Greedy Summer Squirrel Pie

Photo on 2013-06-19 at 13.15 #3

I’m greedy.  Greedy like a fat fluffy-tailed squirrel.  Especially when it comes to pie.  One of the things I love most about summer is the abundance of berries.  I take to the bushes like my spirit animal and take home bags of these sweet fruit.  Some of them I turn into preserves.  Some I freeze and save for fall crumbles.  Some I turn straight into pie.

Here is my favorite blueberry pie recipe of the moment.  Perfect for staining summer whites and best served orchestrated to the plnokety plonk of Thelonious’ Blue Monk in Newport, circa 1958. What I love most about it is the frangipane at the bottom.  I hope you do too.

Ingredients:

half the pâte brisée recipe

600 grams (2 1/2 cups) fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

100 (0.4 cups) grams ground almonds

100 grams (0.4 cups) sugar

2 egg whites

powdered sugar (icing sugar)

Method:

Put a baking tray in your oven and preheat to 400ºF/200ºC/gas6.

Roll your pâte brisée to fit a fluted tart dish approximately 10 inches in diameter.  Trim the edges and save the pastry for decoration.

In a bowl, blend the almonds, sugar, and egg whites with a mixer.

Spoon the mixture into the base of the tin.

Now carefully tip the blueberries on top of the almond mixture and spread as evenly as possible.

Using your extra pastry, roll out a shape with your favorite cookie cutter.  Place it in the center of your pie.

Spoon some powdered sugar into a sieve and sprinkle evenly over your pie.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the edges of your pie are golden brown and your blueberries are starting to sink.  Do not let them bake until they are mush.

Cool completely and serve with crème fraîche, Greek yogurt, or your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Fireworks, Fruit Pies, and Words for Miss Fairchild

“A woman happily in love, she burns the soufflé.  A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven.”  Or so says the Baron Saint Fontanel to Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina in the eponymous film.

Let me say that throughout most of my twenties I never burnt a single soufflé.  What I did do was date.

Things didn’t work out with Pony.  He was too much of a stoic.  He was  also a vegetarian which wasn’t a problem in and of itself except that we would fight about it.  We would argue about hypothetical holiday dinners as I was unwilling to serve our unborn hypothetical children tempeh at Christmas and he wasn’t about to sit a table that had a roast animal on it.  I got him hooked on Judy and Bing while we dated.  Post-break-up he sent me a text message, “I’m playing $10 worth of Judy Garland on the jukebox right now.”  I’m sure his soccer buddies at the pub loved that.  Like most long distance relationships ours had no chance in hell.  It didn’t help that his was the toughest shell to crack.  Finally, when I got to the center, I realized I didn’t want what was there.  He’s the one I wanted to be something else.

Cap’n America.  In fifth grade, he decided that he wanted to be a Christmas Elf or a comedian.  At 29, he wrote scripts for cartoons.  He was like a golden retriever puppy that only wanted to please.  Which could seem endearing except that he consistently embroidered the truth to make himself appear the good guy.  Or sometimes he’d just flat out lie.  Like when he told me he was going to Vegas because he had seats for a fight that he didn’t know I knew was taking place in Madison Square Garden.  Imagine Eddie Haskell as an Abercrombie model.  Can’t stand him, right?  Eventually, neither could I.  His charm was his best and worst quality.  He played Scrabble with my 90 year old Great-Grandmother.  He talked sports with my uncles.  He entertained all the young children in my family until their various bedtimes.  One day he freaked-out about how different we were.  He said, “I wear jeans and Chuck Taylors.”  To which I replied, “So do I.  What’s the difference between your Chucks and mine?”  He got very serious then said, “Mine are functional.  Yours are just ironic.”  I tried to soothe him.  “No, they’re not.  My Lacoste is ironic.”  He’s the one that chased me out of the village I didn’t even want to be in.

Cracktor.  That’s a portmanteau of crack-head actor.  He loved gifting suites, leased luxury cars, and cocaine.  He was Italian-American and had sparkly blue eyes.  Or at least they sparkled when he wasn’t on drugs.  The first time I heard him play piano I cried.  The passion that pounded through him and into those keys was overwhelming.  He liked to dance to Louis Prima in the kitchen.  When he got wasted, he’d tell me, “This is me being totally honest.  I’m so vulnerable right now.”  Seldom was that the case.  He just liked delivering monologues.  Once after we stopped seeing each other, he called to say he was tripping his balls off and about to rip out his hair and that he needed me to come play Florence Nightingale.  Like a self-flagellating masochist, I came to his rescue. When I got to his house with sandwiches and San Pellegrino, he crawled into my lap like a kitty and cried.  His Blackberry kept buzzing with text messages from a certain CW starlet who wanted to know what happened to him?  Where did he go?  When was she going to see him next?  In the middle of all this buzzing he said, “I hate you, Misti.  I hate that you’re the only person I wanted to call.  I hate that I want to see you everyday.  I hate how you have the correct answer before I’ve even asked the question.  I hate how comfortable you make me feel because it’s uncomfortable being so comfortable.  Mostly, I cherish you and that only makes me hate you more.” Yes, that’s all verbatim as I recorded his ramblings on my phone.  He’s the one whose post-breakup call I never should have answered.

Grandpa.  He was great on paper and if you couldn’t guess, he was a little older than me.  16 years older.  He claimed Gypsy roots and said his family hailed from Eastern Europe.  He was an ex-rocker turned screenwriter who liked playing Norman Mailer to my Norris Church.  He had never been married or engaged.  That should have been my first red flag.  By design, real intimacy was never an issue.  He created the busiest schedule for himself so he didn’t have time to let anyone get close.  When not writing, he’d fill the rest of his days with all kinds of lessons and activities–acting, French, music, pilates, boxing, whatever.  He would call when he missed me.  And that’s when the vicious cycle would start again.  He would wine and dine me and talk about moving out of L.A.  and maybe having babies.  Then when he’d start to feel himself falling in love, not that he ever said he loved me, he would disappear only to call again after a few months–generally after having just spent a weekend with his married friends and all their charming children.  He was a recidivist romantic and as useful as a trapdoor on a canoe.  He’s the one who liked me best living in the margins of his life.

One year, on the 4th of July, Grandpa fully stood me up.  For hours I sat in a silk, slate blue, Catherine Malandrino dress, eating steak and heirloom tomatoes, drinking champagne by myself while the gardenias in my hair wilted and died.  The tableau was that of a Tissot painting gone horribly wrong.  Darkness fell and I scooped up my dog and took her outdoors.  Apropos of the occasion, we were dancing around to Animal Collective’s Fireworks when all these glittery colors streaked across the sky.  That’s when it hit me.  I was sparkly enough on my own.  And to be honest, really quite happy not having to share any of the ginger peach or dark chocolate cherry pies I made earlier that afternoon.

When the pyrotechnics ended, I scooped up my dog and went back inside.  We snuggled in bed with the rest of the champagne and watched Sabrina.  And when that famous soufflé scene came up, I noted the Baron St. Fontanel forgot something crucial when addressing Miss Fairchild.  A woman’s only options are not to be happily or unhappily in love.  She can also be happily not in love and eat all the soufflé (or pie as the case may be) until the right man who deserves a taste comes along.  And that’s exactly what I did until I went to London the summer of 2009 for what was to be a 10 day trip from which I never returned.