Or, an episode of pitter patter on kitchen gadgetry
I just purchased two pie protectors from TheBakersPlace.com for $6 each. This may not seem like earth-shattering news, but it is. I don’t have any trouble buying stuff. I’d hate to reveal how many sets of dishes I own. But I have this resistance to specialty tools and gadgets. Maybe it stems from the time in my life when making do was more necessity than choice. Being creative and adaptive became a habit and something I take pride in.
My husband says I’d have made a lousy pioneer, an observation that usually coincides with a complaint regarding humidity or a hot shower turned suddenly cold or some other nuisance. However, I think I’d have made a good pioneer—mainly because, immodestly speaking, I’m pretty ingenious. For example, did you know that in an emergency you can defrost a chicken using the dry cycle of a dishwasher? I know there weren’t any dishwashers in covered wagons, but you get my point.
While my kitchen drawers are plenty full, there aren’t as many gadgets as you might expect from someone who spends as much time in the kitchen as I do. I have a friend with a very small kitchen who owns every kitchen tool I’ve ever heard of and some I hadn’t. It’s an impressive collection, especially for someone who has the only kitchen I’ve ever seen that has absolutely no counter space. Really.
Once when I helped her give a party, I used the floor (clean, I promise) as my counter as I arranged food on platters. Just like a good pioneer. When I called her just now to share the astounding news that I had just bought two pie protectors, she replied that she was planning to buy a chinois (a coarse strainer) and a tangine (a Moroccan baking dish). Contrasted with those exotic items, my pie protectors sound pretty tame, but I’m excited all the same.
Now that my pie protectors are on the way, I’m feeling a little silly that I’ve baked so long without them. It’s not that I bake all that much. I don’t. For one thing, you have to follow directions—and measure things. Measuring’s for sissies. But I do love key lime pie, so I bake those occasionally. About a month ago I made 10 of them as my contribution to a Knox Heritage Summer Supper. And I just made two of them for a dinner party. That’s when I had my breakthrough.
I’ve just realized I may be coming across like the sportswriter who caused me to vow never to read the sports section again, a vow I’ve kept since 1984 (unless, of course, there’s a scandal, but those are usually covered on the front page, too). I wasn’t reading the sports section in 1984 because I was interested in (or knowledgeable about) sports, but because I wanted to be a well-rounded person, one capable of conversing intelligently on any number of topics—including football. Here’s what happened. I read an entire column on the topic of something called “quarterback audibles” without having the slightest notion what those were. The writer apparently assumed anyone reading the column would be sufficiently well informed that a brief definition was unnecessary. So I got mad and swore off reading the sports section. Not wanting to be that arrogant, I’ll pause and say a word about pie protectors in case anyone is reading this column as part of a personal development program.
A pie protector is a round metal band that fits around the edge of a pie-baking dish, which for some reason is called a pie “plate.” Its purpose is to keep piecrust from becoming too brown while the center of the pie, which requires more cooking time, gets done. Cooks without protectors either serve pies with over-browned crusts or they tear aluminum foil into strips and wrap it carefully around the edges of the pie about halfway through baking. This can be a tricky situation because not only are you trying to make a rectangular strip of foil conform to a round shape, but the round shape happens to be hot, and piecrusts are fairly delicate things. I still don’t know what a quarterback audible is, but now you know all you need to know about pie protectors.
Anyway, while tediously molding foil strips around the edge of a hot pie plate, I asked myself, “Self, why are you doing this?” I popped the pies in the oven, set the timer, and, thanks to the miracle of online shopping, ordered two pie protectors before the pies were done.
My pie protectors will join my small gadget collection, which started with a cherry pitter. If you only pit a few cherries in your life, a cherry pitter is still a good investment, but when my counter-poor, gadget-rich friend told me about a pitter that pits a whole passel at once, I recoiled. I want to pit cherries decently, the way pioneers did—one pit at a time.