Like all weeks are really, this one just gone by was kinda strange. On Monday morning - at work, shoes miserably saturated with rain, bag weighed down with a cake I'd baked for a new person's welcome, planning to watch relaxing TV shows later on - I got a call from Tim. And while I'm not psychic (good thing too, with the weird and sinister dreams I get) I just knew, as soon as his name flashed up on the screen, that he would be calling to say his grandmother Jude had died.
So, two gas station pies and seven hours later, we were in Wairoa. Which is where we stayed until late Thursday evening. By which stage I'd eaten a million Osler's pies (Jude was an Osler); attended my first Catholic rosary (she was intensely devout, but like all things, she seemed to exuberantly enjoy it); slept fractiously in a tiny bunk bed with an enormous spider overlord; drank endless cups of tea; washed dishes as much as I could to try and be useful; and cried harder at a funeral than I ever have before. I don't know why I normally feel so rigidly dry-eyed at funerals, but this time it started pretty much as soon as we walked through the door. Though, I felt lucky to have known her as long as I did, having been with Tim for ages now. Jude (she was called Jude by all the family, not grandma or nanna) was incredibly beloved, a real life-of-the-party kind of person, and very involved in the community and her large family's life. The sort of person where the void left by their absence makes itself felt very, very quickly, and often.
Gotta say, it's also the first funeral I've been to where the music everyone proceeds out to is the Bird Dance. Which maybe gives you a better picture of things than anything else I've said so far.
The other strange thing that happened this week is that I ended up on a list of 20 People of Influence and Effect in a national newspaper and its website. I say ended up, but I knew it was happening, but I thought it was going to be much smaller - maybe a little paragraph in the lifestyle section about food trends for the upcoming year, with a thumbnail picture of my face. Instead I'm there beside like, Kimberly Crossman and Emily Perkins and businesspeople and activists and a rugby player. (Kimberly Crossman was an actress on a local soap opera, now making good on every single opportunity coming her way; Emily Perkins is a brilliant author, in case you're not familiar/not from here/not inclined to google them.) My brain being what it is, I was partly all "whoa, cool! I love this kind of thing! I've got a blog and a cookbook coming out! Go me!" and partly all "this seems like a grave mistake somehow. Is watching Bunheads and painting your nails on a Saturday night influential?" And partly feelings about my photo and wondering if my eyes are actually that crooked. But the whole thing is truly, very cool and exciting.
The comments have been...interesting though. Everyone who knows me in one way or another has been really enthusiastic about it (sample: my nanna txted me to say "Wow what an honour to b 1 of 20! Yr my girl!" - lovely). People who don't know me, and who specifically comment on the stuff.co.nz website, are TERRIBLY OUTRAGED. Either by a food blogger being on there, or by the whole concept altogether. One person was so angry they said they'd stop reading stuff.co.nz altogether! Which is what I usually say when they publish something, say, racist or homophobic! But I told myself firmly to stop reading the damn comment already, and also, more practically, that people wouldn't be complaining about you at all if you weren't on the list of 20 influential people and so it's still pretty thrilling and all part of the package deal of being in the public eye (or in my case, attempting to be.)
So there's that.
If you're new here, either prompted by my status as influential, or hate-reading for sour kicks, I acknowledge this particular post is very long and full. They're always like that. But finally - since this is a food blog, after all - a recipe!
I made this for an impromptu picnic at the Botanical Gardens while watching some live music. Which is quite a fun thing to just say you're doing, all carefree and summery and instagrammy. The execution was fun too - hanging out on a blanket with great friends; their flatmate's band The Concerned Residents playing (great name, huh?) as well as surprisingly endearing opening act Lost Bird; a tiny dancefloor, made up of scarily cool Wellingtonian children; chocolate and Doritos and cider and beer and this pie. Which I found in a cookbook that's proving to be one of my most favourite and most-used: The Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts (And Party Beverages). It was called Ozark Pie, which I found fascinating - I presume referring to the Ozark Mountains of America, although I'd like to think Mrs N.B Knightlinger of Port Clinton, Ohio, who submitted said recipe, was just really into the TV show Ozark Jubilee (hilariously, sadly: "the centerpiece of an unsuccessful strategy for Springfield, Missouri to challenge Nashville, Tennessee as America's country music capital") or Ozark Henry, the Belgian musician.
Semantics aside, this pie is so easy to make, and can be changed to suit whatever fruit you have to hand. It's not particularly flashy - just a sturdy, sugared dough with fruit on top - but it honestly takes less than five minutes to put together and it's ideal for a picnic, being easy to transport, great hot or cold, and, as I said before...sturdy. Picnics are no time for meringue towers or souffles.
Adapted so liberally from the Favourite Recipes of America: Desserts (and Party Beverages) book that it's really not the same recipe any more, but I do like the name Ozark Pie. You can call it Apricot Pie if you wish. This mixture is quite small, so don't go eating any of the batter as you mix it. You need every last skerrick of it.
3/4 cup sugar, plus 3 teaspoons extra
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Set your oven to 180 C/350 F and grease a 20cm pie plate or springform caketin. Whisk the egg lightly, then add the sugar and beat for about a minute, until thick. Fold in the flour, baking powder and vanilla, then dice one of the apricots and mix that in as well. Spread this thick mixture on the base of the pie plate or cake tin, then slice up the remaining apricots and arrange them on top of the batter. Sprinkle over the extra sugar. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes.
Because the base is so utterly plain, the vanilla extract really shines, and adds to the voluptuous summery sweetness of the apricots. Should your apricots be very ripe, you might not feel that you need the extra sprinkling of sugar on top - mine were firm and tart and refusing to soften up, no matter how many bananas I tried to pair them with (apparently sitting certain fruits beside each other has an effect on them...a bit like people.) I'd leave the sugar in though, as it gets a little crunchy and textural once it has been in the oven a while. The original recipe called for chopped apples and nuts, which would've been brilliant, had I actually had either in my possession. I'm sure this'd be excellent with many things though - pears and ground ginger; canned peaches; nectarines, whatever you've got handy.
It feels like there are a million other things that happened this week that I could write about, but this is already so long so I'll leave it there and say adieu to you all, regulars, new readers, and new hate-readers (I bet if I was hate-reading this I'd smirk at "adieu".)
Oh wait: one more thing. In the spirit of this being my blog and I can do what I like with it, I'm starting a new segment this week. I mean, there have never been any "segments" before and I don't know if I like that word - but anyway - what's happening is: a short post where I interview musicians, very briefly, about food. It'll either be happening weekly or fortnightly, depending on how many people I can actually get involved, but it's looking promising so far, and will be starting this week with Anna Coddington who is way excellent. What day will it be starting? Um, as soon as I think of a cool/uncool-pun-related title for it. I'm not saying that so you'll check back every day. I'm just waiting for that pun to appear.
Title via: Somewhat fittingly, Barbra Streisand effortlessly belting out I'm The Greatest Star, a song I've always identified with, from Funny Girl. Ugh, she is so great.
Mathematics, by Mos Def. For a record that came out well over ten years ago, this feels incredibly, urgently fresh. I love it.
Idina Menzel, I Feel Everything. It's not my favourite of her songs, but it has become one I've grown to love a lot more over time. And I adore this live clip of her changing the arrangement to be much more rocky. And also I adore her.
Jessie Ware, Wildest Moments - I've linked to this song before, but it's so glorious, and I'm so glum about missing her and Bat For Lashes at the Laneway festival next week...
Next time: this pasta recipe I thought up - very simple, just what you want in the middle of summer when you can't be bothered thinking too much.