Tag Archives: baking

Desserts, Disasterously Easten

sugar panoramic eggsPicture a frozen lake midwinter, freshly fallen snow clinging to its banks as brightly colored skaters twirl about, carving figure 8s in the ice, while a protective line of evergreens takes up the background mountain range.

It all comes crashing apart as a gigantic tongue descends from the sky, slobbering over the scene and crashing onto the crowd. In one saliva-laden, fell swoop, the landscape is obliterated.

I look at the crumbled remains of the sugar egg on my mother’s dining room carpet, and think about Humpty Dumpty. There’s no putting this delicate creation back together, either. Now the paper figure skaters look unimpressive, lying among the crumbs of sugar on the area rug under the formal long dining table. Read More…

Baking a cake standing up

Last year I was still somewhat out of commission after knee surgery when Susanne’s birthday rolled around, and by “out of commission,” I really mean, “still taking sponge baths.” This year I’m mostly back to my old form—I’ve returned to a bowling league, have kept up my routine at the gym, and can squat again when I need something from a low cabinet, which is pretty much the only time I squat—so I figured cake making would go easier this time around.

I should know by now not to make assumptions regarding the ease of anything. And still, I persist in my idiocy.

For her part, Susanne had requested a Schwartzwald Kirschtorte (say that 10 times fast), a.k.a. a Black Forest cake, but she’d thrown in a couple of twists: she wanted a layer of chocolate ganache in the middle of the cake layers, instead of the usual whipped cream and cherries, and she wanted, on advice from her mother, the cherries that go atop the cake to be dipped in chocolate. In the spirit of the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, I’ll explain the level of difficulty this entailed. Now your standard Black Forest cake, with its spongy chocolate cake layers, has a rating, under the old figure skating scale, of 3.2 out of 6 total, but because it also calls for whipped cream and systematic pricking with a fork so that it will uptake the kirschwasser liquor, has a final technical difficulty of 4.1, or in the new International Judging System, 8,237 points. Because I also had to make a ganache, dip cherries previously cured in liquor, and use that liquor as the base for a homemade liquored syrup, my new difficulty rating was a 5.8, or in the IJS, let’s see. . . carry the one . . . computing . . . 13,482 points.

But I was up to the task. I was certain of this.

While the recipe called for 7″ cake pans, presumably because the Germans enjoy smaller-sized desserts, I only had one 8″ cake pan and 3 9″ pans. What was a baker to do? I went for the 9-inchers, because 9, being a greater integer than 7, must be better. I whipped up 6 eggs, my arteries screaming no at me, blending in sugar and cocoa, and arrived at a splendidly smooth batter, which, upon pouring into the pans I could see rose to a withering height of . . . three-quarters of an inch. Hmm. I crossed my fingers and hoped that the cakes would rise in the oven.

After dutifully rotating the cake pans at the halfway mark of baking, I answered the timer’s bell and saw that indeed, they had risen. They were now one inch tall. I considered marking their progress on the kitchen wall, but instead I grabbed my car keys, wallet, and phone, and headed to the grocery store, as I was now out of eggs. And I figured I should pick up some extra whipping cream just in case.

Twenty minutes later I was the proud owner of assorted dairy products, and ready for round two of cake madness. I quickly washed out the cake pans, re-buttering and flouring them, in something like double speed for this redux. I started cracking eggs again and was dismayed that I’d bought some kind of weird-shelled eggs—each insisted on leaving a little bit of itself in the bowl, so I had to fish out chips every single time.

One mixer made a new batch of chocolate cake, the other started the cream whipping process, while I melted 72 percent dark chocolate in a double boiler and made a simple syrup on another burner. Pant, pant! I was a whirlwind of confectionery! A force of baking nature!

Two more cakes popped into the oven. Chocolate was melted carefully, while the syrup boiled and oh no, started to smoke. The kitchen quickly filled with the acrid, eye-stinging fog, so I tossed the offending concoction and started again. Again. Opening the back door helped a bit, though it was mighty chilly outside.

Okay, the chocolate was ready, so I dipped cherries in the double boiler, thinking to myself that since we picked these cherries ourselves last summer, this cake was officially six months in the making. They looked cute lined up on the wax paper, drying slowly as if there weren’t a flurry of activity just a few inches away from them. I added some cream to the rest of the melted chocolate, to start the ganache portion of the program.

Finally, the layering and stacking and glazing and frosting were finished. I looked at the creation. Four hours, a dozen eggs, 20 tablespoons of butter, 3 cups of cream, 4 cakes layers, 12 ounces of dark chocolate, and many cherries later, I had this:

Black Forest cake

I was so tired and hungry from all of the cooking, I almost dropped my face into the thing and ate it all, but figured it wasn’t worth the effort to make it all over again. A few hours later, several of Susanne’s friends came over to share cake and wine in front of the fire. We oohed and ahhed over the creation and by the end of the evening, it had disappeared into our collective stomachs. Susanne enjoyed the cake but noted twice to various people, including my mother-in-law, that she only got one piece of cake out of the whole thing. So it looks like I’ll be performing again, but this time it will be the short program. A tasty, short little program.

Cherries jubilee

It sounded like a fun little outing, going to our friend’s aunt’s house, an hour away, to pick cherries. I think of things like picking strawberries, down at one’s feet, where I can walk away whenever I think I have enough, or picking blueberries, right at torso height and brambleless.

Cherry picking is not those things. And one cherry tree has something like a gazillion pieces of fruit on it. Such was it that a couple who showed up—in response to the aunt’s mass email announcement—walked away with 150 pounds of cherries, and I couldn’t tell which part of the tree had been hit. Getting the fruit out of the tree entailed extremely high, rickety metal ladders, which, given the knee issues of mine, Susanne forbade me to climb, and plastic buckets we were supposed to string around our necks so we could pick with two hands.

The aunt and her sister chuckled quietly as we walked toward the tree, thinking that these city folk would be poor farmers. Susanne, however, proved them wrong, getting her little body in between large branches heavy with cherries, double fisting clumps of berries and quickly accumulating several full buckets. We joked that she was a migrant farmer in a past life, and if the political science professing career dried up, we’d be just fine with her picking prowress.

I, meanwhile, thought the tree was quite the pugilist, and I came away with several scrapes on my arms and torso as if I’d gone five rounds with the thing. For my part I hauled in something on the order of 8 quarts, certainly laughable by the aunts’ standards. They sat on their porch  smoking cigarettes and drinking Mexican beer as dusk overtook us. Aunt Maureen—affectionately called Mo—is quite the antiques collector, and her home is filled with old things, especially kitch from the 1930s and 40s. Our friend warned us before we walked in that she has a lot of “Aunt Jemima stuff,” which amounted to dolls in black face, framed sheet music about “how funny the Negroes are,” and old Amos ‘n Andy stills.

“Aunt Mo has a funny sense of humor,” our friend said, in summary.

We therefore ignored the offensive portion of the antiques in Mo’s house, and considered them an unfortunate piece of American history, artifacts of a time when people were more openly, though not necessarily more, racist.

Mo was not afraid of new technology, her love of things archaic notwithstanding. Perhaps it was just that gadgets needed to have proper motivation. For example, her cat, Sharon, had both a locator microchip implanted in her neck, and a “finder collar” that was wirelessly connected to a button Mo could push to show her where the cat was in space. This would have been only a small point of interest except for the fact that the feline did go missing later that evening. And then we identified the flaw in the cat radar screen: walking up to where the cat should have been, there was no Sharon. It was like the scene in Aliens when Riley is looking at the green blip, knowing she should be right on top of the thing, but there’s no alien.

Or is there?

Sure enough, Sharon had taken solace directly above where we had gathered. Turns out she had a bad tooth and wanted nothing more than to alleviate her pain, and barring that, figured hiding under her caregiver’s bed was her next best bet. So kudos to the cat finder company: they’ve gone and taken very useful technology and morphd it into something only a crazy pet owner would desire.

After a summer meal of salmon, corn on the cob, fruit salad, and rhubarb crisp, we took the cherries to the car, realizing we’d picked about 50 pounds worth. Aunt Mo was grateful to have people harvest the tree so that she didn’t have a rotting mess on her lawn come next week. Getting home, we made every kind of cherry everything: dried cherries, preserved cherries in syrup, cherry preserves, liquor-infused cherries, cherry ice cream, and cherry pie and for the love of Pete, we still have a boatload in our kitchen.

So chalk one up for Walla Walla, having lots of summer produce for us to pluck out of trees, and teaching us about 19th Century food preservation. Next up, skinning a wild boar and using the hide to make moccasins.

Making flowers

While Susanne’s younger brother Kurtis was visiting us, his birthday rolled around. Given my penchant for enjoying producing confectionary creations, I asked what kind of cake he would like to celebrate the day. I was not ready for his response — an ice cream cake. While unexpected, I of course was not about to back away from a challenge. I thought about what I liked when it came to such things, and remembered many a frozen Carvel cake. Anyone from the Northeast of a certain age will recall the delights of Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss. Central to those cakes is the chocolate cookie layer, so I went about figuring out how to recreate it in my kitchen.

I cleaned out the filling from half a package of Oreos, crumbled up the cookies, mixed them in with vanilla and melted butter, and pressed it into the pan. I made homemade vanilla ice cream, Kurt’s expressed preference. I made whipped cream with a hint of vanilla, layering them and freezing them one layer after another into the pan. Then it came time, on the morning of his birthday, to decorate the top. I made some royal icing and colored it green and blue, two colors I know he likes. I wrote out his name and then attempted to make something from nature, an interest of his. I stood back and saw I had made a simple flower. Kind of girly. I needed to add something. I put down some more designs and stood back again and then realized my error. The cake looked like this:

 

ice cream cake

ice cream cake

Oh dear. This would have been perfect if Kurtis was an 11-year-old girl, but not a grown man. He seemed not to care, declaring it tasty and just the thing he’d wanted.

How to bake a cake (from a seated position)

 

birthday cake from the past

birthday cake from the past

1. Open first cookbook, entitled, “Baking,” and search for chocolate cake recipe.

 

2. Realize that there is not, in fact, any specific recipe for chocolate cake — there are, however, 15 recipes related to chocolate cake as a topographal category: flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse cake, sour cherry chocolate cake, hazelnut chocolate torte, chocolate and ice box cake . . . . Quit reading and try to remember what the original idea was again.

3. Read through four more cookbooks, not finding a cake recipe worth making. 

4. Pull out the Fine Cooking Chocolate magazine special and identify the recipe to attempt today. Sigh with relief until discovering there are 14,836 steps to creating said cake. Go for it anyway, since it’s the best bet.

5. Push self on office chair over to pantry and reach up to acquire 16-pound container of flour. Sift 3 cups into bowl and add other dry ingredients. 

6. Make wet chocolate mixture, spilling some on container of homemade pasta, and realizing that it is out of reach, choose to leave it there, because at least it smells nice.

7. Whip butter and sugar together in mixer, becoming quickly aware that there is something already in the bowl. Turn off mixer, look in bowl and see small pieces of homemade pasta. Curse out loud that now you need more room temperature butter.

8. Spill some of butter-sugar mixture on on boxer shorts, which are the fashion around the house these days. Admire how the boxer short ribbing nicely holds things like flour, sugar, and butter.

9. Re-mix, in clean bowl, more butter and sugar, and add flour and wet mixture to bowl. Slop wet mixture up onto the kitchen ceiling, 8 feet above and understand that from a seated position, getting it off the ceiling is next to impossible. Continue with cake baking.

10. Curse again as it is evidenced that there is no parchment or wax paper. Grease and flour all three cake pans, crossing fingers that the cakes will come out of them after baking.

11. Get cakes in oven and then crutch over to couch to rest while they fuse to the cake pans.

12. Hear alarm go off much earlier than reconstructed knee would like, and take cakes out to cool.

13. Carefully take out one cake, grumbling at the one spot that has glued itself to the pan. 

14. Repeat Step 13 twice more.

15. Grind up 6 ounces of chocolate in food processor and become dimly aware that it is not actually plugged into the wall. Take stock that said wall is at least one foot beyond reach from seated position in office chair. 

16. Melt 6 ounces of unground chocolate on stove top in double boiler, being able to see only 2 square inches of the pan surface. Stir constantly, assuming the rest of the pan surface looks like the part that is viewable, making assumptions based on sampling size and overall population.

17. Watch as stirring arm falls off body. Consider cost to benefit ratio of having surgery again, this time to replace arm.

18. Mix melted chocolate into other ingredients for frosting and whip with mixer.

19. Layer crumbly cake layers with frosting, teetering one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable cake stand on thigh. Watch as cake slides off cake stand onto floor.

20. Kidding. Finish crumb layer and put cake into fridge for quick cool down before the cake target comes home from work.

21. Remove cake from fridge and finish frosting. Crutch back to couch and thank reconstructed knee for cooperating.

22. Nap.

Wintry Walla Walla

As the snow is still falling, it’s tough for the one-kneed bandit to get out there and take proper pictures, but I’ll try a little later today. For now, there are these from when the snow first started falling. Enjoy.

Cookies of perpetual indulgence

We throw a party every year to bake and exchange holiday cookies of no particular affiliation, although there do seem to be a preponderance of Christmas trees in the mix with each year’s collection. I started the annual cookie exchange in 2003, when I was living in a 1-bedroom 3rd floor walk up, which incidentally was the only place I’ve lived that had kitchen appliances younger than me. Unbeknownst to me, Susanne was hosting her own cookie party, not surprising since we both own KitchenAid Artisan 5.5 quart mixers that we have given names. Obviously baking is more important to us than your average bear. No, I do not think that makes us weird.

What was a fun little get-together has evolved into a tag-team extravaganza of confection. We held our first cookie exchange in Wallyworld last weekend and 30 guests came by with all manner of sweet goodness: there were butter cookies, gingerbread cookies, fudge, pumpkin-chocolate-chip cookies, spice-raisin cookies, shortbread cookies, nutty cookies, fruity cookies, and some high-end store bought cookies. 

To cut some of this unending sweetness, Susanne and I made a few savory delights — her well known (in DC) stuffed mushroom caps, spinach dip, and as a joke, I made mini-wieners with Pillsbury dough crescent rolls snugly wrapped around each one. Susanne could not believe her eyes, but I said, “you wait and see, people will love them.” She continued to look absolutely horrified. 

I ran out to the store, buying last-minute things and getting some cider so we could mull it with some spices on the stove. It had started snowing. Walla Walla, although it gets about three times the amount of snow, on average, that DC does, does not own a single plow. So driving gets pretty treacherous. I put on my grippiest shoes, prayed my remaining ACL would hold out on any ice, and hopped in the car. And then drove very slowly to the grocery store. Anti-lock brakes are great, but the jittery dashboard alarm that the road is slick annoyed the hell out of me. I know it’s slippery, car, I’ve been driving for 20 years. You were just manufactured in June. Don’t tell me how to drive. 

After this altercation with our vehicle, I slipped into the grocery, grabbing what I needed, and then heading for the cash registers. In Walla Walla, there aren’t long lines for anything, really, but they’re still painfully slow. People here like to commiserate. It did, after all, take us 2.5 hours to buy a new dryer at Home Depot our second week here because the appliance salesman spent so much time chatting us up. By the end I knew his full name, favorite hobby (hot air ballooning), preferred church (Adventist), favorite restaurant (26 Brix), and had met his current girlfriend and her two children.

I stood in the line of two people (me and another person) for 12 minutes. At this point all the friendly has evaporated from my body and the three-foot radius of space around me. I am thus very consistently a rather terse, unhappy customer by the time I actually reach the cashier, but my politeness stops me from spilling over into rudeness, which is fortunate, because that would be such a difference from Chatty Cathy Cashier that it would rip the fabric of the universe, and then where would we be? Looking at the gates of hell or the 7th dimension or something, at Checkout 1 of the Safeway on Tientin Street? Not good.

Then it was off to get home, get the food prepped, and hop in the shower and find some festive outfit. I was happy, damn it, happy for the holiday party!

I showered too quickly. I left soap on my backside and realized, only after I’d gotten dressed, that this made it hard to walk. Apparently friction keeps our legs from doing the Monty Python silly walk, and I had just minimized my friction. But with 30 minutes until the party, I didn’t have time to remedy my situation. So it was that I realized that inside slipperiness is just as bad, if not worse, than outside slipperiness, like ice. At least I didn’t have a butt alarm telling me that it would be hard to keep my legs together. Actually, that’s not really how I meant that to sound. Oh, bother.

The party went off without a hitch, and two people actually squealed with delight when they saw the mini-wieners. Somehow this post has gotten off track with all the talk about butts and wieners. Sorry about that. I have pictures somewhere, of all the cookies, and when I locate the camera cord (Susanne tells me it’s in the cabinet of no return), I’ll update this post.

What a waste it is to lose one’s mind

My surgery has been postponed indefinitely because there isn’t currently any donor tissue to use to reconstruct my ACL. In a weird twist to my attempts to “buy local,” I seem to be subject to an inaccessibility of allograft material, which is a localized issue. Apparently if we were still living in DC I would have had the surgery by now.

But not having the surgery just yet provides some unexpected benefits, like I’ve trimmed our Christmas tree, we can go ahead with a cookie exchange party, which will help us meet some new people, and I got to go to the annual holiday farmer’s market (the regular weekly market closed at the end of October and won’t reopen until April).

Still, it’s strange to think that I’m waiting, basically, for someone to pass away not so I can have their heart, but so I can go bowling again. It’s strangely offensive, or trite, or . . . something distasteful. That said, it is the best surgical option for me. And as I myself am an organ donor, I suppose I may pass something on, too. I just don’t have a response for people who try to make jokes about all of this (except maybe for the “buy local” one). Organ donation just isn’t funny. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculously unfunny.

So in the meantime, I bake. Baking, as we all know, sure can be funny. For Thanksgiving, I produced an apple pie, about two and a half dozen sweet potato biscuits, and a pumpkin swirl cheesecake. Thanks to my Mom, James Turner, and Junior’s bakery in Brooklyn, respectively, for the recipes.

 

Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

Pumpkin swirl cheesecake

The cheesecake, it should be noted, was not made without some trauma to me and the people in the room whilst it was being prepared. I was making the cake with my almost 12-year-old niece, Beth, when I was showing her my trick for cracking eggs. She asked, rightly so, if I wanted her to break the egg into the bowl or into something else, then putting that into the bowl. Because my egg-cracking tip minimizes the chance that broken shell will get into the recipe, I said it was fine to break it into the bowl.

Bad idea, Everett. Bad, bad idea. For while my 38 years of experience with store-bought eggs has so far produced wonderful incredible edibleness, this was about to go off the rails for me. She cracked and cracked the egg, and said, “it won’t open.” I took the egg from her, and in the nanosecond before I released the yolk, I saw the problem.

Humans, however, need something more than a nanosecond for their reflexes to kick in. I could only manage a slow-motion, “noooooooooo,” as I dropped it into $8 worth of cream cheese, vanilla, and whipping cream.

It was blood red. Worse, it had a half-inch large dead baby chick in it. And the redness of it against the pure white cream cheese mix made it only look more incredibly disgusting.

Suddenly there were people all crowding around the bowl trying to get a glimpse of the grotesque concoction. Kind of like when someone tastes something spoiled and screams and then begs you to taste it, too. Or like eating lunch in the Social Security Administration cafeteria. Kind of like that.

Susanne’s older brother, true to older brother form, suggested we just dump out the egg and continue on with the cake making. We did not of course, listen to him. This was made easier because of precedent–we are in the habit of not listening to his crazy man ideas. Instead I took a drive 12 miles to the grocery store and got more cream cheese, which was conveniently on sale. Then I wondered if the grocery store had some conspiracy to screw up people’s cheesecakes with fertilized chicken eggs so we would have to double our purchases of the cream cheese. Now that the Republicans are out of the White House, what will we do for conspiracy theories? Egg producers may take a lot of heat. 

This brings me to the mind-losing portion of this post. I was planning on the knee surgery on December 3, but lo and behold, as it is postponed indefinitely, I now have no calendar for anything — not rehab, not getting a job, not bowling — and so my sanity has begun to trickle away. Dear readers, hopefully it will not adversely affect this poor little blog too badly.

In the meantime, I snapped this apple pie picture shortly before the pie was no more. Enjoy.

 

Almost gone apple pie

Almost gone apple pie

 

 

Next up: Santa comes to Walla Walla.

Hidden treasures

So last Friday I turned in my intent to enter the pie contest at the food co-op. I was a bit surprised at what I saw. Back when I lived in Syracuse, the co-op was nestled in a residential area in an old green arts and crafts-era neighborhood. It wasn’t enormous, certainly not the size of a supermarket, but it had about 1,000 square feet of space, and carried groceries, dairy, fresh made tofu, floating in a plastic container like edible styrofoam, and all manner of non-perishables and even some cleaning supplies, which is where I first learned the All One Insanity of Dr. Bronner. You could go insane (or blind) just trying to read the labels on that stuff. I volunteered there a few hours a month, not much, but really enjoyed my local milk in glass bottles. That was a splurge for me, though, so I only got the milk maybe once a month. So much for my graduate stipend. I still don’t know how I lived on $700 monthly checks.

Fast forward to 2008 and the Walla Walla co-op has just opened at a physical location. There is a front room in a converted house, across from a now-defunct grocery store, and they carry about as much as anyone could pack into 250 sq. ft. of space. So these people need some fundraising! At $5 for pie and $2.50 for senior citizens, they’re gonna need a lot more pie contests to make it work. Unless there’s other fundraising. I mean, of course there’s other fundraising. Their money making enterprises can’t be:

1. Annual Pie Contest

2. Bake Sale

3. Wet T-Shirt Contest

4. NEW Monthly Pie Contest

At any rate, dropping of my pies, which each seemed to weigh about 15 pounds (I think it was the 6 sweet potatoes that I had mashed up into them), I guessed that the contest was a lot more about building community than raising money.

 

one of the sweet potato pies

one of the sweet potato pies

It was in the assisted living center portion of a grand Oddfellows House. At this point, I hear “Oddfellows” and I think buried scrolls and gold ala Nicholas Cage in National Treasure. Poor Masons. I wonder what George Mason himself would have made of that awful flick.

Anyway, these people are decked out. It was like MTV’s Pimp My Ride did a special there one day, because the walkers and the scooters everyone was using were swanky. I think one of them might have been an amphibious vehicle to boot. Several residents saw me huffing my way through the building — I can only image what I must have looked like, a bit fat guy with two heavy, sticky pies on each hand, waiting for the elevator. I invited a few curious folks to come to the contest. The administrators of the building pumped in swing music the whole time, and I thought that if these folks were like my father, they probably enjoyed the tunes. It was, actually, the happiest assisted living center I’ve ever seen.

Something like 20 pies were in the contest. Three or four apple pies, cherry pie, banana-coffee pie (affectionately named “Banaoffee,” which I turned over again and again in my brain, trying to figure out what language it was in), citrus pie, individually peeled concord grape pie, apple-raspberry pie, and many others. By the time the contest opened to the public, the judges had already made their selection, which, we were informed, used a point system and was “very impressive.”

 

pie contest volunteers

pie contest volunteers

 I walked in at the same time as a woman who I met in September at the HIV fundraiser. That woman is a fantastic cook. Thus the pies she was carrying in with her daughter I figured would be very good indeed. Turns out her 13-year-old made the pies, which were citrus pies.

She said she was upset because it was supposed to be a lemon pie, but they hadn’t had enough lemons, so she had to use lime and orange as well.

“Well, sometimes those changes make your pie come out even better,” I said.

“That’s what I told her,” said her mother.

I put down my pies and saw the table sag ever so slightly under their weight. I was then marked as Pie #2. The citrus pie was Pie #3. I left and went back home (less than a block away), and waited for the judges to do their thing. Some friends who were visiting us that weekend walked over with us to enjoy some pie. We were allowed to taste from 5 pies, which made quite a pile of confection on our paper plates. I should have strategized with Susanne so we got a wider variety of pie, but we all ran off like bugs to the light, looking at pie after pie.  We sat back down with our selections and waited about an hour to hear the results. We also could vote for “the people’s favorite,” so I went for the citrus pie, which was in fact very tasty.

The winners this year were:

First Place: Peach Custard Pie (darn! that’s the pie I was thinking about making before I decided on sweet potato pie)

Second Place: Marionberry Pie (DC readers of this blog may find such a thing suspicious, as it calls into question whether there was any cocaine in the pie)

Third Place: Apple Raspberry Pie

So, this intrepid pie-baker lives to fight another day. And the nice part is, the girl won for people’s choice with her very tasty citrus pie. It was also nice to see some friends at the event, all stuffing ourselves on pie. As in the picture below.

 

Pie eaters

Pie eaters

Clearly, Susanne is pissed we didn’t win!

Pie’s rules of order

So concerned was I that my pie wouldn’t be allowed under the rules of the Daily Market’s second annual pie contest that I emailed the contest organizers with my question. My email was forwarded to the grand poobah of the pies, apparently, as follows:

Hi Robynne,
Do sweet potatoes qualify as a fruit?
Lina

P.S. We had a cat named Sweet Potato Pie when I was a kid because my 
sister and I couldn't decide what to call it and the neighbors suggested 
Sweet Potato Pie. But I've never tried the pie and I'd love to!

I seem to have hit a sweet spot with my choice of pie, pun intended. I mean, she’d love to try it? It reminds her of her childhood cat? Who’da thunk it?

But I didn’t want to get too excited. Perhaps I’d have to switch up to an apple pie after all. I’d have to wait for a response from Robynne. On a side note, are there like, 39 ways to spell Robin or what? There are almost more than for Catherine.

Fortunately for me, Robynne responded quickly. 

I think sweet potato pie is fine. basically we wanted to stay away from
cream pies. I love sweet potato pie and it's Obama's favorite so it's
timely!

Now with this response, I wasn’t as sure what to think. I mean, clearly she loves that Obama was elected? Should his favorite pie mean that it will be her favorite pie? Now that I think of it, through this whole long entire primary and general campaign season, I think the one tidbit I hadn’t discerned in all of the interviews, debate watching, articles, talking heads, and conversation with friends, was Obama’s favorite pie. Where on earth did she learn this little factoid?

Susanne, for her part, is fact-checking the pie preference of our President-elect. Googling Obama’s favorite pie, she found that his favorite is in fact:

PECAN PIE. This because he asked an aide for it to go for his usual dinner of salmon, broccoli, and brown rice. According to his daughters, he’s not a big fan of the sweet, but instead prefers pumpkin pie. Either way, pecan pie sounds just awful after a salmon dinner. To me, anyway.

So where has this idea that sweet potato pie is his favorite? I will ask the Robynne character when I see her.

UPDATE: Susanne found the reference. In a stump speech on October 18 in St. Louis, Obama said his favorite pie is sweet potato pie. His second favorite is pecan pie. You heard it here . . . not first, probably.

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