“Will you make a key lime pie?” Stockton says to me as I dove into planning this year’s Thanksgiving meal. I paused from my avid internet recipe researching and bookmarking. I never baked a key lime pie. I was intimidated. And I planned to make black and white cookies to serve with coffee that ended the heavy meal perfectly. I love chocolate. And baking. Two of my favorite things in life, besides of course Stockton. Hmmm.
He frowns. I hate disappointing him, but the thought of screwing up his favorite dessert–a man who hardly ever goes for desserts, but perks up when key lime pie is on the menu–kept me from jumping right in.
Over the next few days, I pore over recipes. Gravies, stuffings, rolls, turkey basting methods, and pies, key lime pies. Yup, I can’t dismiss a request from a guy who doesn’t ask much from me. I compare fillings and toppings and fruit choices. I study amounts and methods. I reach out to my aunt, who bakes key limes and lemon meringues every year for birthdays, and she tells me to go for it.
I tell Stockton. He smiles. My big softie heart rests in the right track. I create timelines and shop for my holiday groceries. Baking day arrives. First, I mix and rest and knead and form my batch of buttery Parker House rolls, terriers at my ankles ready for handouts. The house fills with the smell of baking bread, welcome home.
I turn to my pie. I juice the tiny key limes with industry, ignoring the ache as the acidic liquid hits a hangnail. I zest a few other limes and admire the accumulated green pile. The little moments enthrall me. The filling ingredients combine easily and I set it aside to thicken. Meanwhile, I pulverize graham crackers in my cuisinart, sifting through the crumbs to weed out any chunks–this is for Stockton, he gets the VIP dessert prep. Melted butter and a small amount of sugar blend with the crackers until the mixture reaches the consistency of coastal sand visited by the sea. I daydream about the beach as I run my hands in the crumbly mixture, almost hearing the sounds of the ocean and the seagulls.
Now comes the hard part, forming the foundation, the crust. I dump my “sand” into its box, my green pie dish with scalloped edges, next to my good intentions. Using my fingertips, I massage the mix, pressing it to the bottom and sides of the dish. Patience and a soft touch work better than rushed, forced movements. I examine the crust closely under lights from as many angles as I can, repeatedly retouching and testing areas with my keen tactile sense. I’m an ex-massage therapist living with low vision. I got some mad tactile skills.
I place the dish in the preheated oven. The terriers wag their tails at me expectantly. I scratch behind their ears instead. Hands are rewashed. Soon I’m pouring the filling into the browned crust then returning it to the heat to finish. I inhale and hold my breath as I close the oven door. No turning back.
The holiday arrives. Cooking and laughing and eating and drinking. Before I know it, I’m sprinkling powdered sugar over my key lime pie, garnishing it with slivers of fruit. Stockton steals a key lime segment and pops it into his mouth, grinning. The man will never suffer scurvy.
Forks passed, pie slices eaten. The results are in: the crust supportive and delightfully gritty, the filling straightforward, tangy and smooth. It reminds me of someone…