November 2004

The Pies – Thanksgiving Eve, 2004

The pies are finally in the refrigerator, and since it had been several years since I’d made them, there were some, um, moments during the preparation.

Like when it struck me that this year pecans seemed just a little too, well, red, and that fine blue California walnuts would be a more comfortable, bluer choice.

Or when I at Lucifer’s urging tossed just one extra tablespoon or so of ultrafine sugar into the meringue because I was going to be using an extra-dark chocolate and wanted a teeny bit more sweetness in the curst. That’s not a typo. I am no longer calling it the crust.

I was powerless to resist the urge even though I knew what was going to happen, and it did. So once again I found myself desperately trying to form runny would-be meringue into crust shapes and watching as they visibly sagged while I was throwing the damn things into the oven.

Still, it had been worse, other times, and this time the shells are actually somewhat concave and have a discernible, albeit slight, rim. And since I let them dry overnight in the warm oven, they’re definitely crunchy.

The Pie

The only difficulty during the making of the filling was after I’d filled half a page with pencil calculations to determine that I needed 227.2 grams of chocolate. See, the down side of smuggling your own dark Droste in from the Netherlands is that they don’t really need ounces over there and see no reason to clutter non-export packaging with them.

Luckily, I remembered that it takes 2.2 pounds to equal a kilogram. So once I figured out how many grams I needed, all I then had to do was use the other half of that page for the calculations to determine how many squares, and what percentage of the last square, were required to get 227.2 grams.

I was feeling pretty smug about doing all this successfully, but when the chocolate was sitting in the double boiler over simmering water and I went to reward myself with a cup of the coffee left over from the recipe requirement and my eye alit on my kitchen scale, it struck me that another way of getting the right amount of chocolate would be to painstakingly weigh out eight ounces.

However, if you do it that way you don’t get the reassurance that you are still bright enough to calculate ratios, which require both multiplication and long division.

And no, I am not showing my work on how I arrived at the figure of 227.2 grams—especially since it’s pretty clear by now that these pies have more chocolate than usual in them.

See the Recipes.

To end the year, another Market Street shot, the Hyatt:

Hyatt

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Aunt Pauline

When I was discharged from active duty in the United States Army in 1966, I was 25 and weighed 140 lbs. This was all lean meat because the lunchtime habit of a number of us at my last duty station, the 102nd USASA Security Detachment at Autobahn Kaserne out from Heidelberg, Germany, was to play Field Volleyball for the lunch hour and eat a sandwich on the fly afterwards.

Field Volleyball was similar to traditional volleyball in that it used a classic volleyball and a net. It differed in that the net dangled from a steel cable stretched between two telephone poles so that players could hang on with one hand while bashing at the ball with the other.

This was volleyball as a contact sport, and I discovered the down side in the Spring when I went for a ball at the same time as my motor sergeant, whose arms were as big around as my legs.

But I was right back out on the court shortly after the cast was removed, so I had regained all the physical conditioning benefits by the time I rotated back to the states in August.

After my discharge at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, I drove my Volkswagen across the country to Texas, and when I stopped in Pittsburgh to visit my aunt and uncle, they took me out for steaks. During the meal, my aunt kept slipping morsels onto my plate from hers; and, being 25 and voracious, I certainly had no complaint about this unfamiliar behavior even though it was strange enough that it stuck in my memory.

Ten years later, I had given up trying to make myself straight, had come out, and had moved to San Francisco. By dint of a year’s work in the gym, I’d got my weight up to 150 and was in even better condition…and significantly better shape since that ten pounds was all upper body muscle.

Every Sunday I played volleyball with a bunch of gay men over in the Oakland hills, and after the game we went to the rather grand Piedmont home of the one older player for splashing and supper around his pool. Not exactly a dirty old man, since he wasn’t putting any moves on us as far as I could tell, but still, we were there because we were definitely decorative.

We were also hungry. Our host provided sodas, a big salad, and bread, while we guests stopped in at a Safeway on the way and picked up meat to grill. To quench our thirst, most of us chugged a beverage on the trip between Safeway and our host’s house. Mine was usually a quart of chocolate milk. Yes, a quart! Well, you know, gotta restore those fluids you sweated out on the court.

All this came rushing back to me last month, when Jeff and Steven next door had some house guests from Canada, a twenty-something gay couple, both serious athletes and, incidentally, cute as bugs. I found Glen and Phil as delightful as my neighbors, so I cooked supper for all four.

Phil

Steven and Jeff had seconds. Phil and Glen came back for thirds, and as I watched them eat I suddenly flashed on my aunt and finally understood the pleasure I had given her forty years ago…the joy of watching a lean, young man wolf huge quantities of food.

And yes, I recognize that the pleasure may not be totally unalloyed for those who are currently buying the groceries for an adolescent. But I promise you, when you’re old and gray and every extra bite you eat reappears around your waist, there is something wonderfully fascinating about watching heaping platefuls of food vanish into flat bellies.

Where the hell does it go? It’s as if all that food somehow metabolizes in their mouths!

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