Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Legacy of Lima Bean Pot Pie

Last week, Bernie asked me if I would make Lima Bean Pot Pie. I agreed to do so, recognizing the great power that I have, and wishing to use that power in a kindly manner.

You see, I could hold the pot pie hostage, demanding some sort of ransom, as in "Certainly I will make pot pie for you, Darling, but first you have to take me on a cruise to Hawaii" or even "You'll get the pot pie when I see the fall garden beds tilled."

Or cruelty, I could  use cruelty -- "You think all you have to do is ask for pot pie, and you'll get it? Go on, go find some other woman who knows how to make it!"

But no, I do not. If I hadn't ever wanted to be asked to make pot pie, I never would have introduced the dish to him in the first place. Because most people who have this thick, creamy, delicious, hammy and noodly confection once fall madly in love with it. Lima bean pot pie is right up there with fried chicken and macaroni and cheese in the Comfort Zone of food.

Sadly, by the time my generation is gone, pot pie may be extinct as well.

Even by the time I was in grade school, none of my classmates knew what "lima bean pot pie" was. They had already been afflicted by little green baby limas, the scourge of childhood. The big, soft mature bean -- butter beans -- were unknown to them. None of my friends' mothers made this dish; the closest anyone got to it was the chicken pot pie made with bow-tie noodles (store-bought) and sacrilegious chunks of carrot and potato. Horrid.

My mother was my heroine: she could make pot pie.

Now she wasn't above holding it hostage: she might ransom the food for chores to be done in return. And if she was in a bad mood, forget about it -- refusal to make pot pie was a mighty weapon.

My only recourse was to learn how to make it myself, and she was gracious enough to coach me, so long as she didn't have to do the work. Fair enough.

I thought about my father's grandmother today while I was rolling out the noodles, the woman who would have taught his Aunt Viola Quay how to cook. (Not his mother, she was too flighty to stay in the kitchen.) I also have Dad's grandmother's ironing board, and a wooden bowl and chopper that must have been hers. I think I have a few pictures of her, one as a young girl, and a couple as an older woman, but I know little about her. Still, working in the kitchen to make this simple bit of heaven, I think she and I would have had more in common than her grandson's mother or her grandson's wife. They found cooking a chore. Great-grandmother, at least, would have been fascinated by my Cuisinart, which makes the dough in 45 seconds, my tempered glass rolling board that cleans up like a dream, and my ceramic-top stove. And I think she might have sputtered with disgusted jealousy at the pre-cooked, spiral-sliced ham I dragged out of the freezer, but one thing I know for certain:

She would have loved this batch of pot pie.

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