After singing in an elementary school choir concert or performing in a school play, my father would take me out for a post performance slice of pie. Our very small Minnesota town didn’t offer many choices for restaurants, or pies for that matter, so we’d always end up at Big Ben’s, a local, family place. My choice of post performance pie was unfailingly blueberry cheesecake with whipped cream on top. Anyone east of the Mississippi would rightly scoff to hear this pie categorized as cheesecake. The squishy, white, cream-cheesy center was glopped onto a buttery graham cracker crust. I strongly suspect the mushes origin was from some lovely box mix back in the restaurant kitchen. On top of the quivering cheesy center was dumped a can of blueberry pie topping, sweet, bluish-purple, cold and creamy yumminess. I absolutely adored this pie. This Midwestern blueberry cheesecake was the epitome of comfort food — delicious, bad for you, highly caloric, and blatantly unrefined. My post performance pie was so smooth and silky that no chewing was necessary. It would slip from fork to tongue to pharynx to esophagus to stomach to intestines to …, you get the idea, in this effortless whoosh. Before I cared that something called cute boys existed and might see me being an utter, manner-less pig, I’d even pick up my post performance pie plate and lick it clean. Needless to say, I was pretty stunned when I had my first piece of real, New York Style cheesecake — so firm my fork could stand upright, so texturous I had to use my teeth and chew. No drippy toppings necessary to gussy up the bold wonder of a New York slice of cheesecake. Yet even today, with my significantly more experienced and mature palate, I wistfully dream about having another sweet, mushy slice of Big Ben’s blueberry cheesecake.
The post performance pie family tradition is obviously not something I could leave behind when I left Minnesota and moved to Maryland (side note: I prefer extended habitations in only M initiated states). Last night, my son proudly — wait, strike that — LOUDLY, played his trombone in his middle school band concert. As we drove to the concert, we, of course, had a lively family debate about potential post performance pie sites. My husband and I tend to favor the nearby Nautilus Diner. They have a crazy array of mile high pies and serve plates overflowing, guaranteed to produce huge, delicious stomach aches if you manage to shovel the entire slice into your pie-hole. Sawyer, being an iGen kid, hankers to break the mold and the old ways, and was lobbying for ColdStone Creamery and a cup of Apple Pie Alamode ice cream. Technically, still in the pie category, our Sawyer the lawyer argued. As he was the star of the night, he got his pick.
After all, it really doesn’t matter where we go, but that we go. That each time we talk about my dad taking my hand, opening his camper topped pickup truck door for me, and securing me in my seat. That we talk about my experience with Big Ben’s and my father and the squishy blueberry cheesecake that I so adored. That we laugh, and joke, and chant about post performance pie. That we talk about these small but important acts that bust out louder than my son’s trombone of love, devotion, caring and acceptance. Whether I completely bombed on stage during my solo as the business wo/man in the play The Little Prince in junior high, or performed the show-stopping number, was irrelevant. My dad in the audience, standing in the back – because he was forever late – but always there, directing boundless beams of pride at me, cheering me on, loving and supporting me unconditionally, is what matters. That is what post performance pie tastes like and is. Whatever sweet form it takes, it always slips down so easily. It is love, and that is why everyone always has plenty of room for pie.