Mixed berry pie

Warning: This is a convoluted tale with a tenuous connection to pie, and really no link at all to mixed berry pie. In fact, tenuous might be an exaggeration. Consider yourself warned.

It begins and ends with an empty plate.

This empty plate sat on my desk in Vancouver, beside a Conan (as in O'Brien) mug half-filled with cold coffee, at approximately 10:30am on Tuesday, February 16.

A mere 6 1/2 minutes before, it looked something like this.

And 5 3/4 minutes before that, something like this.

A mixed berry concoction that was honestly one of the tastiest pies I've ever made, which is perhaps how I arrived at any empty plate just 12 1/4 minutes into the "photo shoot". (Aside: I considered a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but decided it was too early in the morning.)

But like I said before, this post isn't really about mixed berry pie, or pie at all for that matter. No, it's about empty plates and what's left behind.

I'd rate this particular one a bit messy. If you scroll back up for a second, you can see how some filling got away from me there near the rim, where the plate curves too steeply for the pie fork. I'm usually quite tidy, carefully scraping up all digestible sugar matter as I go, after each bite.

You know sometimes how the littlest detail--a scent, a flavour, a song, a colour--can take you back to another time and place? It was like that with this plate.

It was June 2008 and R. and I had just finished walking 800 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. After a few days of rest in Portugal, we headed back to Paris to gather our things, say farewell to friends and have one last go at our favourite foods. That's how we found ourselves dining at Le Poisson Rouge just a few days before we headed back to Canada.

For a time, Le Poisson Rouge had a regular spot in the weekday lunch rotation. The restaurant was especially popular with the Anglos in the office--particularly the Brits--for its steak and mash. If I'm honest though, the real reason we kept going back was the glorious fondant au chocolat.

There were the inevitable comparisons as spoons cracked fondants. Whose had the runniest centre? Whose was overbaked? And then came the analysis of each finished plate as, one by one, owners pushed them away and sat back in their chairs to sip their cafés. Points for clean, tidy plates with no crumbs and even spacing between spoon strokes. Bonus points for creative deviations from the traditional back and forth pattern demonstrated above.

A vote. A victor declared.

A full stomach. A happy heart. An empty plate.

Source: Adapted from Mixed Berry Pie with Pecan Orange Lattice Crust at Epicurious.com, originally published in Bon Appétit, November 1998.

Notes: I kept the lattice top, but used plain pastry. For the filling, I used 2 cups cranberries, 2 cups blueberries and 2 cups strawberries (measured frozen, then defrosted) and substituted blackberry jelly for the marmalade because that's what I had in the freezer/fridge.

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