Usually it just takes one slug to kill a man, but on this darkest of nights in a deserted beach house, a certain young lady empties the entire contents of a revolver into the cad who scorns her. Of course, the cad had it coming. Infidelity and rejection are a volatile cocktail, particularly after you’ve had too many cocktails to begin with, swelling a head that was already too big to enter a doorway without going in sideways. You could say Veda Pierce was groomed for this moment from the time she was born, to blast six holes into her dissipated, lout of a lover, her old-moneyed, now out-of-money stepfather. You could say it was Mildred’s fault, Veda’s mother, for spoiling her daughter to this exalted ego. But no amount of smothering, motherly love could feed the monster like having the means to live the good life where no expense was spared and every appalling behavior rewarded. Mildred wasn’t a very good mother, but she was a very good business woman who built an empire as well as she could bake a pie.
The year was 1945, and Joan Crawford won the Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of James M. Cain’s long-suffering survivor mother, Mildred Pierce. Crawford knew a thing or two about making ends meet, steely ambition and a messy personal life. Crawford’s husbands dropped like flies, but Mildred only had two. Two were enough.
Bert Pierce is unemployed and spending far too much of that free time having a fling with a widowed neighbor, so Mildred flings him out. Pride is an honorable thing, but the stack of unpaid bills didn’t go out the door when Bert did. Mildred, a housewife with a gift for baking, has to high-tail it out to get a job. Without any marketable skills, she winds up waitressing at a local restaurant. It isn’t long before she parlays her baking talents to provide the restaurant with an array of popular pies by the dozens. Business at the restaurant is good, and Mildred’s bank account is even better. If only her daughter Veda liked her and didn’t despise her for baking pies and being a waitress. Driven by Veda’s disgust, Mildred maneuvers an old property into the first of a chain of successful restaurants, moving her out of the kitchen and into the boardroom. Along the way, Mildred divorces Bert, then takes up with the town near-do-well, forming a business as well as personal alliance. Monty, of the polo pony set, is down on his dollars, and not too proud to put the bite on Mildred. Mildred, who is used to being bitten by Veda, is only too happy to write checks out to her loafer of a lover.
Then things get a little complicated. By the film’s end, Veda and Monty are both on the outs with Mildred, and her empire is collapsing, but not before Mildred marries Monty and buys Veda a mansion. You would think that everyone would be happy, at least for a little while, but this is a film noir with the Hays Code to appease. After a grueling night of police interrogations and flashbacks, Veda is charged with Monty’s murder. It’s the best thing to ever happen to Mildred. Flat broke and broken, she and Bert, her ex-husband, leave the justice building, silhouetted in the bright beams of sunlight across the marble halls. You know she’s going back home to her pies again. You know she’s going to be all right.
dozen cherry. Now when we finish the apple, we can quit for the night."
Crumb-Topped Peach PiePie Crust (from the Betty Groff recipe)
(makes 2 bottom crusts or 1 double-crust pie)2 ½ cups all purpose white flour
½ stick butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
Cut or rub between fingers the butter and shortening into flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add ice water a little at a time, tossing & folding with a rubber spatula between additions. As you continue to add, toss and fold small amounts of water, press the mixture with the spatula against the bowl until the dough can easily form a ball. Use as much ice water as you need. It is better the dough be moister than dry; dry dough will not roll out evenly. Transfer dough onto a well-floured rolling surface, gently shaping into an even ball. Cut the ball in half and reserve second half in plastic wrap for another use (you can freeze it). Roll the bottom crust large enough so that you have overhang when you fit it in pie pan. Carefully fold dough in half, then in half again to form a quartered wedge. Position wedge into pie tin, then carefully unfold to lay open the dough evenly. Gently press dough along contours of tin, then decoratively crimp top edge evenly all around.
Peach Filling (my own recipe)
8 medium fresh peaches (white or yellow)
1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
¼ cup corn starch
2 teaspoons very fresh ground ginger
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients until well blended. Blanch peaches in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove from water and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Peel peaches, then slice them into even wedges about ½ inch thick, removing the stone from each. Toss peaches in dry ingredients until fully coated. Set aside while you make the crumb topping.
Crumb Topping (my own recipe)Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal (also known as almond flour)
½ cup white or brown sugar
½ stick (4 Tablespoons) butter or margarine
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. With your hands, lightly rub and toss butter through dry ingredients until a soft-crumbed mixture is formed, fully incorporating all ingredients. Handle as little as possible. It will look like very coarse meal. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Blind bake (bake without the filling) the pie crust shell for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and evenly spoon in peach filling with the juices. Scatter crumb topping over peaches to fully cover.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, or until pie crust and crumb topping are browned. Remove pie from oven and allow to cool on rack in the tin. Pie will slice more easily if fully cool.
Serves 6 to 8. --
Been There, Done That
Stuffed Baked Nectarines
Rosina (Funeral) Pie