I love baking pies and consider myself to be something of a pie maven. Usually my success in the kitchen is evidenced by the fact that my pies rarely last more than a couple of minutes after the first slice is cut, and I was once asked to consider selling them. A classic apple pie is my favorite. However, yesterday I was served a heap full of humble pie when a dinner party became an absolute disaster. I mean D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.
My boyfriend and I hosted dinner for some of his friends who I was meeting for the first time. Naturally, I wanted to impress them. One of the guests was vegan so we prepared a vegan menu that was to culminate with a vegan apple pie, meaning that the crust had to be made sans butter. Nothing beats the rich flavor of a homemade butter crust, but I successfully pulled this feat off once before and I thought how hard could it be to duplicate? Very hard as it turns out.
I have never struggled so much with a pie crust. The dough refused to form the right consistency and as soon as I got it into a ball I knew it had been over handled, which once baked would be very, very hard and unpleasant to eat. After making the crust three different times I finally settled for the last and least disagreeable specimen. I knew it would be the ugliest pie I ever made, but felt hopeful the flavor would make up for its appearance.
But sometimes things just don’t go the way you want them to.
Shortly after 11 p.m. with 15 minutes left to bake, an enormous billow of black smoke erupted from the oven and enveloped the room. That’s when I would have burst into tears if it weren’t for the room full of guests. In my haste I forgot to put a baking sheet under the pie. The filling dripped onto the oven floor and burned. We had to open the windows (it was about 22 degrees outside) for ventilation.
Eventually the world’s ugliest pie was served. People seemed to like it, though by then I think it was out of pure sympathy.
Despite the fact that my boyfriend and I woke up with dinner party PTSD, it was probably a good experience in that we got a chance to see each other handle a situation in which things don’t go according to plan. Having rigid expectations is a fast-track to failure. Expectations must change with the circumstances otherwise you’re destined for disappointment. Normally, I’m pretty good at going with the flow. But last night was a good example of what happens when you try too hard. Whether it’s a dinner party or a job interview, trying too hard can result in pushing yourself to be someone you’re not. If you try to force something, it’s just not going to happen in the most optimal way. What’s more you end up missing opportunities around you. There were a lot of great people in the room and I was too busy fussing over the kitchen.
Furthermore, the experience was a necessary reminder that the best cooking comes from a place of love, not from trying to impress others. Had I just relaxed, taken my time and had the confidence to just be me, the evening would have turned out far better. I just hope my boyfriend’s friends will consider responding to a future dinner invitation. No fire extinguishers required.
Thank you, and be kind.