Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: The Cherry Pie Caper
I love cherry pie. Holidays are not complete without cherry pie at our house, in part because that was my Mom’s favorite pie and she baked one whenever she had an excuse to do so. Sunday dinners when I was growing up was usually southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes and cherry pie. I think that Sunday ritual was Mom’s way of staying connected to her Florida family. I still haven’t tasted fried chicken to compare to my Mom’s.
Patti’s daughter Beth has been in charge of pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house for many years and has honed her cherry pie-making skills to a fine point, developing just the right balance of sweetness and tartness surrounded by beautiful homemade crust. I look forward to that pie with a child-like excitement every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, my Thanksgiving this year was a somber affair. Beth informed me she couldn’t find the cans of cherries she uses in my pie! After checking at Walmart several times, she was told they no longer stock those cherries. I tried to act grown-up about this disaster, but I’m not sure I pulled it off. I knew I had to start planning to save Christmas from being cherry pie-less at our house.
My crusade started last Saturday morning, doing some Christmas shopping which included a stop at Wal-mart. A thorough check of the grocery aisles confirmed there were no cherries to be found. Disappointed but not deterred we continued on, first shopping for gifts at Menards, where Beth works part time. As we were checking out with our Christmas purchases, Patti pulled Beth aside and mysteriously whispered something to her which made them both smile. Christmas secrets, I supposed. Onward in the search for cherries! Dakotamart’s parking lot was busy, but just as we pulled in a parking space showed up. It was a sign! We were going to find the cherries here! A bee-line to the baking aisle brought us to an empty shelf where the prized cherries normally sit, a gaping, grinning hole between the peaches and apples, seemingly laughing at my look of desperation. Patti was strangely amused by this calamity. I didn’t think she was taking this nearly seriously enough. I was down but not out. Dakotamart, Ft. Pierre, here we come! I wasted no time, parking right in front of the store and heading for the baking isle, walking all the way to the end and seeing, sitting on the top shelf as if waiting for me to rescue them, two cans of cherries! It was my lucky day! I almost skipped to the checkout counter, paid for the cherries (expensive, by the way), and headed for home, making a stop at Menards to drop off the cherries for Beth to take home and turn into my cherry pie. She was at lunch when we got there, so I called her and told her I had found the cherries and would leave them on her counter. She moaned and groaned about having to make a cherry pie now, but I didn’t let her grumbling dampen my Christmas spirit.
We had a great Christmas dinner, ham, bean salad, scalloped potatoes, rolls, all the things a holiday meal consists of. I ate a portion of everything, making sure I left room for a big piece of cherry pie, and it was just as good as I imagined it would be. When we were done, Beth and Patti asked me whether the pie was worth the hunt for cherries. “Yes, it was,” I said smugly . They both giggled. “What’s so funny?” I asked. “Beth had bought cherries at Dakotamart the week before Christmas”, Patti said, laughing. “Why didn’t you tell me that,” I again asked. “Because, I was enjoying watching you in your cherry hunt and didn’t want to ruin your fun,” she said. Hmm. Yes it was fun looking for the cherries, I admit. But now we have two extra cans of cherries without a reason to make a cherry pie. Wait! My birthday is in a couple of days…?