Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Meat Pie, Bittersweet

I just finished the last slice of a terrific beef pie my son R. made. Now, it's been a long week already, and it's only Tuesday: turbulence in and around. But as I put the last bite into my mouth (I made him save me one last piece), I had a moment of thinking, this is the perfect food. It was a deeply soul-satisfying, primal-animal comfort, all wrapped up in yolk-glazed pastry. Even sitting alone at my table for dinner, the sense of satisfaction and completeness was profound. Life. Is. Good.

R. has a Culinary Arts Degree, but because of multiple health issues, can't work in the field. The meds that could possibly enable him to work a kitchen line would most likely also cause his death, by heart attack. He's been unemployed — except for some seasonal umpire work — for over two years. Unemployment depleted. Savings: bye bye. He's 27, intelligent, talented, capable, and financially supported by me. It's a struggle, and I get angry and frustrated with him far too often. Last winter he started back in school in a worker retraining program, and then was rear-ended in a collision, got a concussion, and landed immobile for two months.

Not much has changed since then. He's applying for entry-level jobs, battling depression, and cooking for Mom. Changing the litter box. Doing the odd job at the glass factory.

When he was in his first year of cooking school, we had our run-ins re: the kitchen. That year, on Christmas Eve, I was preparing a traditional (for my family) Christmas Eve dinner: French Canadian Tourtiere, a pork & beef & potato meat pie. It's a dish that is much beloved by my boys, and is often fought-over as a Christmas morning breakfast treat.

But that particular Christmas Eve, R. came into the kitchen, observed very briefly what I was doing, and snatched the wooden spoon from my hand.

"Hey! What the hell are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm just trying to introduce classic French cooking techniques into this kitchen!" He answered.

After an impassioned spate of back-and-forth, I ordered him to leave My Kitchen.

And he did.

And the tourtiere was, as always, fabulous.

As expected, R. mellowed as the years passed. A few nights ago, when he was making the gravy for this current meat pie, he asked me to taste it, wanted to know what was missing.

I was quite taken aback: R. was asking me for cooking advice? I mean, we've collaborated on a number of recipes, but he's never asked me, outright, to identify something missing/needed in one of his creations.

Needless to say, I was astonished, and suggested a trickle of Worcestershire, or even a splash of soy sauce to deepen the complexity of flavors.

"Oh! Yeah!" He said. And did it. And it worked.

Which brings me to this evening, and my dinner, and my one moment of gratitude, of goodness, of appreciation for this one small thing which turned my week — early though it still is — into a good one.

Of course, what would make it an exceptionally good week would be for R. to get a call about a job, any job. Or for the pharmaceutical gods to alchemize an ADD med that isn't a stimulant, that actually works.

Lacking that, I'll savor these last flavors of R.'s meat pie, and that he asked me for some honest input. It wasn't tourtiere, but it was a damn fine pie.

And conclude with the fact that life is indeed good, could be better, but this, ladies and gentlemen, is what we've got.


  1. I absolutely adore the recognition of and reverence for what is good in this post. We hold our children close, we let them go, we agonize over their path, we do what we can, and we hope. And sometimes, we see the whole worthy enterprise of it contained in a perfect meat pie. Cooking for mom is a very noble pursuit.

  2. May I suggest he rents a small room equipped with hot-n-cold water, a large work surface, and an industrial size cooker. If his pies are as good as you say, he'd hardly be able to keep up with the demand. I'll take the first one!

    1. Cro, with the health department laws on the books here, that would be at least a $100k venture. We've done the math.

      But thank you, despite the ridiculous price tag!

      (And they are that good....)

  3. I loved this post, and all of your posts, for the wisdom and beauty that they contain. I also have a suggestion. I wondered whether he might try marketing himself as a personal chef, or as a chef who creates delicious healthy meals that can be picked up and eaten at home. I know some young people who have done this successfully. He could choose what he wants to cook and post the menu online. Customers then order and he shops/cooks accordingly. Less pressure, less frenzy than restaurant work, but some money coming in, and he's be getting to do something he loves and excels at.

    1. Thank you, Eileen, for your kind words.
      Made my day, really.
      (My week.)


  4. Relish every morsel of life and pie.


    1. lettice leaf,
      I do practice that relishing, but it's called a practice because it's something we have to do over and over again to get right.


  5. Be. Here. Now. I love how you do it, how you savor the simple things that make life rich.

  6. Tara,
    Without the simple things, there would be no life.