There is a toothache in my soul and I've lassoed string around it, tied the rest to a doorknob. I'm afraid the door of my past will slam shut soon. I'm tugged, pulled to the flatlands of my childhood. To the cornfields we'd drive through and the outlet malls we'd stop at on the way to visit relatives. For a funeral, for a birthday. I can still smell the plastic of the Happy Meal toy. I can still see the flowers that were stepped on the last time we visited my grandmother's grave.
I come from the Heartland and if you feel it closely, my pulse still beats there. Somewhere on the Ohio-Indiana border, where they put spaghetti in their chili and can hold a grudge for 20 years. Houses that sit on cinder blocks and gas stations where you can buy jerky from tupperware. My pulse still beats somewhere between 1991 and 1995, the last remnants of my childhood. When the porch swing creaked, when the hot tub leaked, when my sister hit her head and my uncle swore he could see her brains falling out.
Small-town hyperbole. Myths that become repeated and we become disreputable. We fulfill our own prophecies and then don't speak for 20 years. i thought about all of the snowstorms, all of the feet that crunched the ice beneath them. All of the cups of coffee that sat going stale, acidic and boiling in the pot. How no one bothered to pick up the phone and how my pulse would still beat, however faint and arrhythmic, to pull at the umbilicus of the Heartland.
Food has a culture in the Midwest. the economy of it all. Where I come from, meat is sometimes bought at the Dollar Store and when everyone drink black coffee, there's always extra half 'n half. You get creative, you cut corners. You can eat from the land and farm stands that line the roads, signs written in cardboard, others on wood. Sometimes your mother feeds you a peach slice when you walk into the room, saying it's the best peach she's ever eaten. And sometimes you have cereal for dinner when the electricity goes out and you hide under a mattress. Other times you try to recreate the desserts from spiral-bound cookbooks with scratches in the margins, from your childhood, before you forgot where you came from.
And it is a world that's bookended in coasts and often forgotten. A frontier that's explored, tilled, left to its own devices. Between plateau and plain, there is the Midwest. Between the mountains and the ocean, there is the Midwest. Between promise and pilgrimage, there is the Midwest. The Great Lakes extend and the fingertips bleed into the backdrop of my bloodline. And I am Midwestern in all ways but location. I taste the salt of the earth when I bite my tongue.
Mini Hoosier Pie
A basic sugar and cream pie, eponymous of my home state's nickname. The pie makes either 6 mini-tartlets or one 10-inch pie, using Ina Garten's pie crust (recipe cut in half).
- One 10-inch pie crust (see link above, made in advance)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3 tablespoon flour
- 2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 400*F
- Roll out pie dough on a heavily-floured surface and fit into one 10-inch pie plate or ~6 small tartlet pans. Poke holes with a fork and weigh with pie weights
- Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly crisp. Allow to cool while you prepare filling.
- In a medium bowl, measure all remaining ingredients and whisk vigorously until well combined
- Sift ingredients into a measuring cup (for easier pouring) to create a smooth batter
- Pour filling into prepared pie crusts and bake again for 30 minutes or until thickened and browned. (note: watch the small tartlets. If browning or burning at such a high temperature, fit loosely with aluminum foil
- Allow to cool, garnish with confectioner's sugar before serving