Opinion » Bill Cope

Mmm, Mmm, Pie!

Part III: A merry little mincemeat


Better get your fanny in gear! Assuming this very moment is Wednesday morning (when Boise Weekly is hot off the presses), you have less than a day left. Stop whatever you're doing and go buy everything you need to make a mincemeat pie. For tomorrow. Which is Christmas. Duh.

Pardon me for being so pushy, but time is running out. By now, after two installments of my series, you should be convinced that a Christmas without mincemeat pie is like a marriage without love. I have even gone to the trouble of searching out a recipe to guide you through the process of making your own pies, as the area's major food outlets cannot be trusted to supply a sufficient quantity of the commercially prepared product for everyone in Boise.

And even if by some miracle, the bakery departments down at certain food emporiums (which shall remain unnamed) decided they had made an inhuman and thoughtless mistake by not producing a few thousand mincemeat pies in time for Thanksgiving, and even had those rotten bastards belatedly dedicated their ovens to ensuring we would have all the pies that tradition and common decency demands, there is nothing like a homemade mincemeat pie.

So get thee to a grocery, and don't come home until you have rounded up the following: two Granny Smith apples, 8 ounces of golden raisins, 6 ounces of brown sugar, 4 ounces of dried figs, 2 ounces of dried cherries, 2 ounces of beef suet, an ounce of crystallized ginger, 1/2 cup of brandy, one orange, one lemon, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground clove, and everything you need to make a pie crust.

Keep in mind, the list I have provided is the basic requirements for just one pie. There is an old saying in the mincemeat community that goes "If one pie is good, just think what you can do with two!"

Another thing: The exact ingredients are subject to the realities of your financial situation. For example: as figs and brandy may be outside the range of your budget, I'm sure no one would notice if you scraped the inside out of a dozen Fig Newtons and substituted 1/2 cup of MD 20-20 or Thunderbird for the brandy. Or maybe some cough syrup, as long as you don't overdo it on the codeine. Remember, if your family has never had mincemeat pie, how do they know what it's supposed to taste like?

And about the 2 ounces of beef suet? Firstly, do not, under any circumstances, tell your children what suet is. And if you don't know yourself, don't ask. But as you recall, real meats were once used in this pie, so you might experiment. Send your husband out for an elk, maybe. Or a lamb. And seeing as how suet is, itself, a mysterious animal byproduct, I can't think of one good reason why you couldn't substitute a can of Spam. You be the judge. After all, you know what your family likes better than I do.

Now, in a sec, I'll tell you what you need to do with all that crud to get a pie out of it. But before I forget, I have a favor to ask. Would you please take a minute and write a letter to the Boise Weekly telling how much you have appreciated my series on mincemeat pies? Pretty please? I don't want to tell you what to say, but you might include how it has made this the most memorable Holiday Season you've ever had, and how grateful you are to me for sharing this wonderful mincemeat experience. And how it will be a part of your family's tradition forevermore, blah blah blah. I mean, use your own words, but make it sound like I brought more joy to this bleak and desperate landscape than you could have otherwise hoped for. Something like that.

The thing is, I've pissed off a lot of editors over the years, but never as much as I've pissed off this one. She calls me up and says, "Cope, you are aware, aren't you, that the worst economic crisis in our lifetime is unfolding? And that people are losing their jobs like first graders lose mittens. And that America is sinking deeper into debt than anyone could have ever imagined? And that it's getting worse, even as we speak?"

I say "Sure, boss. I know all that. It's terrible."

Then she says, "And you know what all that terrible news makes your stupid four-part series on mincemeat pie? The laziest, most worthless, most irrelevant, silliest pile of ca-ca I hope to ever see out of someone who calls himself an opinion columnist! That's what your stupid four-part series is! Cope, I'm this close to dumping you and running Maureen Dowd in your place!"

Gad, was she mad. In hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea to tell you in last week's installment about her "ever-present toothpick," but what's done is done. All I could think of to say was, "Gee, boss. I was just trying to make things a little brighter. I'm not smart enough to know what to do about the shitty economy or people losing their jobs or whether the auto industry deserves to be bailed out or what to say to someone who can't afford presents for their kids. But I figured if I could give them one small thing to smile about ... silly as it is ... if it cheered up just one depressed, struggling person or if I could make someone's Christmas a bit less crappy ... then it'd be worth it. Guess I was wrong."

She hung up on me and I haven't heard from her since. So, as you can see, a little note on how pleased you are to have learned so much about mincemeat pies would help me out a ton. Now, on to what to do with all those ingredients.

Oops. Says here you're supposed to mulch everything up together, then put the resulting goo in a jar and let it sit for a few days before you make a pie out of it.

Well, we don't have a few days, do we? Had I known about that, I would have flipped parts II and III. But too late now. And I doubt your family would agree to putting off Christmas until Sunday or Monday just because we missed one damn instruction.

So go ahead, slop that gunk into your crust, throw some dough on top and make it look like a pie. Pre-heat the oven to 400 Fahrenheits and bake for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. I guess it means whichever comes first.

It also says to "let cool before serving," so you'd better do it. We sure as hell don't want any trips to the emergency room on Christmas Day, do we? And one more thing. You might include a line about how you can't stand Maureen Dowd and would probably stop reading Boise Weekly altogether if she were in it.

So then, have a happy holiday and make sure you have milk. Cold milk and hot mincemeat pie. You'll think you died and went to heaven.