written by Mary Katherine
A lot of events led up to that very moment. Standing in line at Publix, watching two pecan pies cruise down the conveyor belt in bubbly plastic containers.
No self-respecting southerner can show up to Thanksgiving without a pie!
I was grasping for straws of justification.
“Paper or plastic?” Checkout Lady asked.
“Plastic is fine,” I responded, avoiding eye contact. I just couldn’t face the shame.
Contraband in hand, I fled the scene–trashing the receipt on the way out.
It’s just one lie. One little pie lie.
It all started with a phone call.
My sweet mother-in-law asked what I could bring for Thanksgiving and I was chomping at the bit. After years on the Thanksgiving sidelines, it was time to make my name in the Backstrom family kitchen.
“I’m bringing a pineapple casserole,” I said.
Easy, cheesy and fool-proof. A fantastic choice since I’m the Village Idiot when it comes to cooking. But no. That wasn’t going to be good enough. It was my year to shine, and a casserole just wasn’t going to cut it.
“And a pie,” I added, hastily.
The cartoon devil on my shoulder wrung his hands with glee. Boy, this is gonna be good!
Why did I do it??
Because tradition? Because my husband just loves a good pastry? Because of all the things in the world I’m horrible at, baking is #1 on the list?
Nevermind all that: Holiday magic!!!
My family is southern, you know. We have cookbooks that go back to the civil war and stuff. With scribble-scrawl notes like “shake the egg before cracking it” written in the corners.
Not only that, but Mama practically raised us on pecan farms. God knows how much of my childhood was spent carrying paper Piggly Wiggly bags around those orchards. We’d stay all day and leave carrying our weight in nuts. Pies for days. I’m pretty sure my blood type is Karo Syrup.
I was born to cook pecan pie.
So I packed Nugget up in the car and headed for Mama’s house to learn from the master. I had the whole thing planned.
I envisioned Mama whipping up some pastry perfection, the aroma of roasted pecans wafting through the home. Making memories and laughter in our pajamas with Nugget running around the kitchen. We would use Alabama pecans and Granny’s recipe. It was gonna be divine.
Problem is, none of that happened. I mean, Nugget probably did run around the kitchen, but as far as pies go…nope. Instead, my mom sold her home and bought a new one–in 24 hours. The best laid plans of mice and men, ya know?
We ended up packing and shopping and eating Mexican. It was a grand old time. And before I knew it I was back in Orlando with a sharply dressed toddler, a new pair of jeans….and no stinking pie.
Back from Publix, I set the pies on the kitchen table. I couldn’t stand to look at them with their little scarlet letters.
But I knew what had to be done. I’ve seen enough Criminal Minds to know that if you are doing the crime, you better be equally committed to the coverup.
Thus began the process of stripping away their little Publix identities. I scrubbed clean their dirty pasts. No more price tags. No more plastic wrap. All the way down down to their birthday suit beginnings. I then re-wrapped them in aluminum foil, like they were fresh from my oven.
No time to waste, just hours before Thanksgiving dinner. And as we drove down the interstate I could practically hear my lies screaming out at me from beneath the pineapple casserole.
I walked in the door with my casserole and not one–but two–pies. Such the over-achiever.
“Oh, MK! I hope it wasn’t too much trouble! You didn’t have to make two!” My MIL greeted me with a hug.
“She slaved over them all day,” snorted the hubs.
I wanted to punch him, but I had to settle for a you’re gonna die for that grin.
“It wasn’t any trouble at all,” I smiled, pleased with my not-technically-a-lie response.
“Oh look at how pretty the crust is! How’d you make it?”
The crime. The coverup. All of it was perfect.
But I biffed the stinking alibi—Rookie mistake!
Thankfully, Nugget was elbow-deep in something questionable, so I was able to divert..until dinner.
It was dessert time, and I could feel my palms sweating.
“Oh, the pies are wonderful! What’s in them?”
“The crust is so flaky! How’d you manage?”
The chandelier felt like a spotlight, illuminating every pore on my face.
“Is this your mom’s recipe?”
I don’t know what made me do it, but the confession flew from my mouth like projectile vomit:
“I didn’t make the pies! They’re from Publix.”
The first thing I felt was relief, a monkey off my back. But looking around the table at the baffled faces and frozen forks, at three generations of in-laws staring at the lie on their plates….my second emotion took over quickly.
Ian was giggling so hard I wanted to kill him. Uncle Ben just kept eating. It’s what he does: diffuse drama by ignoring it. Pap Pap made a comment about how “it’s so easy to get a Publix pie, everyone should do it”…
But mostly, I wanted to crawl under the table and hide.
The rest of the evening was perfectly pleasant. And I definitely made a name for myself in the Backstrom kitchen. The Great Pie Lie is a legacy I will never live down.
I guess you can’t have your pie and eat it, too.
Of course, there is a moral to this story. Because the worry and the shame and the stress over a stinking pie was just ridiculous. The bottom line is:
If you are going to do the crime–for goodness sake, have a proper alibi.
Oh, what? You thought this was a story about lying?