I have a confession to make.
I’m as much of a disaster as my characters. I put my heroines through the wringer. Librarians get mistaken for deer, shot by drunk hunters and turned into vampires. Holiday dinners are ruined by exploding side dishes. In RHYTHM AND BLUEGRASS, my most recent contemporary novella, poor Bonnie Turkle meets her one true love/future supervisor while standing next to the burning roadside wreckage of her company car. The situations are scary in their wacky realism because many of them are inspired by far-less-serious incidents from my life. (Except for the deer thing. I have never been shot. Not even by mistake.)
For example, I was put in charge of chess pie for my husband, David’s, family Thanksgiving this year. I’m usually pretty good with baked goods. It’s the vegetables I set on fire. (Baked potato left way too long in the microwave. ) And I have a pretty steady hand with chess pie.
Chess pie is a classic Southern dessert that’s basically a baked custard. The story goes that when the originator of the pie served it to her family, she said it was “jus’ pie.” ‘Jus’ became “chess” over the years and the name stuck. There are a lot of variations involving chocolate chips or pecans or fruit. But I use a classic recipe like the one found here at http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chess-pie/.
The trick with chess pie is that you have to watch it carefully. You want to make sure the custard sets, but it can go from golden brown and delicious to burnt sugar-charcoal in a matter of seconds. And since the pie was going to be served to David’s family, I really wanted it to be good. One bad pie can seriously hurt your reputation with my in-laws.
Thanksgiving morning didn’t go well. According to David, we were bumbling around our kitchen like Jesse and Walter in the first season of Breaking Bad. I ruined his favorite cookbook by spilling my drink on it. He realized he forgot to add eggs to his jalapeño cheese grits after he put them in the oven. Due to a minor incident involving my destruction of a hand mixer, I may have pulled the pie out of the oven too early.
OK, I pulled it out way too early. When we got to David’s parents’ house, the pie was rippling like a cheap water bed. Since no one had arrived yet, I tried to sneak it over to the garbage so I could toss it. I have never seen my husband move so fast. He practically dove across the kitchen in slow motion, screaming “nooooo!” like Bruce Willis trying to prevent a bomb from being detonated.
“We can fix it!” he insisted as he whisked the pie out of my pastry-murdering hands.
“How?” I whispered back.
“We can rebuild it. We have the technology,” he announced solemnly.
“You are so weird,” I sighed as he scrambled the pie with a spatula and poured it –smash crust and all – into yet another pie dish. He popped the dish into a spare spot in the oven and closed the door.
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
“We all get food poisoning?” I guessed.
“Don’t judge me, pie-killer.”
So we stood by the oven and waited for the Frankenpie to emerge, stronger, better than before. It tasted like a mashed up glazed doughnut and ended up being a far more popular option than the pumpkin pie. In other words, pie heaven.
Much like Jane or Bonnie or Mo or Iris, I try to make the best of the disasters I fall into. As long as I avoid drunk deer hunters, I think I’ll be OK. So if life hands you watery, runny chess pie, smash it up, put it in a casserole dish and re-bake it at 350 for 15-20 minutes. And don’t refer to it as “the refried beans of pie.” Apparently, that diminishes its mystique.
For more information about my books, go to www.mollyharper.com. RHYTHM AND BLUEGRASS is available now in ebook and audio. HOW TO RUN WITH A NAKED WEREWOLF will be available in print, ebook and audio on December 31, 2013 from all major book retailers.