Barter makes the world go ’round

July 2, 2012

Pies = Currency. With meringue, or without.

You know, I’ve been in the economic development “bidness” for about 15 years. And we don’t much care if it’s a cash economy, or what. Cash is easier to measure, but we deal all the time in “soft costs” and “soft benefits.” And as long as the overall equation comes out a plus, we’re happy.

I have for you an example in soft costs/benefits in an economic transaction that benefits both parties.

I was on an industry visit last week with a colleague. It being Small Town USA (which, btw, I do love, because it’s so easy to get things done), she discovered one of the office employees was her cousin. And they commenced visiting about holiday plans. And said cousin told her, “So-and-So (whose name I do not recollect) can’t make your lemon pie.”

This was a source of some consternation, as said pie was apparently especially ordered for a specific relative. So I piped up, “I can make you a lemon pie.”

Some minor negotiation ensued. “How much do you charge?” “Pfffth. Don’t worry about it. When do you need your pie?” And I agreed to make said pie over the weekend. Which I did, as evidenced in the photo above.

So I texted my colleague on Sunday morning, as I was baking early, before it got sufferin’ hot. “I’m taking your pie out of the oven. Come any time and get it.”

They were otherwise occupied Sunday, so she dispatched her husband (what husbands are good for, in the rare event they do what they’re told) to pick it up at my office today. And announced to me he was bringing garden veggies in return.

Veggies. A good trade is when both parties think they did good.

Whoo, Lawdy, did he bring veggies! Squash. Crowder peas. (It has been at least a century since I have had crowder peas I did not have at the Cupboard, and be assured these sweeties are getting shelled and cooked as part of the July 4 festivities.) A hefty turnip (I’m seeing his destination as chopped salad). And a plastic baggie full of about three dozen cloves of peeled garlic.

Have mercy! I’m already planning on bundling that garlic in aluminum foil and roasting it the next time I have the oven turned on, because, well, there are a bajillion things you can use roasted garlic puree for. I’m eyeing a chopped salad I found on some blog, because I love me a chopped salad, for the turnip (accompanied by carrots, maybe blanched green beans, maybe ‘shrooms, asparagus, sugar snaps, hell, I dunno, whatever I can find, because I do love me a salad that is not majority greens).  The peas will get cooked for whatever I barbecue for the Fourth, as will the squashes, cut in half, tossed in olive oil, salted and plunked on the grill.

And my friend will be able to take a passing-good lemon icebox pie to her family gathering.

Now. The pie. My ex-husband, God rest his soul, was a significant fan of lemon icebox pie, so I pretty much perfected this one, and I must have made about a thousand of ’em over 16 years of marriage. And you have to make ’em two at a time, because they need a can and a half of condensed milk (shameful admission; I have been known to open a can of condensed milk, grab a spoon, and eat half the can. And be sick as a dog afterward), and they just Do Not Package condensed milk like that, so you need to get over it and buy three cans and make two pies. You can take one of ’em to work, or, if you have an entrepreneurial cell in your body, trade it for garden veggies.

Without further ado, The Recipe:

Lemon Icebox Pie

OK, one more note. There is a difference in lemon meringue pie and lemon icebox pie. Lemon meringue pie is a sort of lemon custard/pudding topped with meringue. Lemon icebox pie is a somewhat different animal, either topped with meringue, topped with whipped cream, or not topped at all. This is lemon icebox pie. Thusly:

For two pies:

  • Two graham/vanilla wafer crusts, your own or the grocery’s
  • 3 cans condensed milk
  • 4 eggs, OR 5 eggs, 4 of them separated
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice (cheap-o from concentrate is fine, if you’re a tartness fiend, squeeze the fresh and zest a couple of lemons for good measure

Dump three cans of condensed milk in a mixing bowl. Lick the tops of the cans and the spoon you used to scrape them out, because condensed milk? Is heavenly.

If you are going to make meringue, separate four of the eggs and dump the yolks in with the condensed milk. Put the whites in a mixing bowl. Add the fifth egg, white and all, to the condensed milk.

If you are not making meringue, as is my personal preference, put the four whole eggs in the bowl, and put the fifth egg back in the fridge. Or don’t get it out to start with.

Add 1 1/2 cups lemon juice to the bowl. Whisk it all together. If you are making meringue, add 1/4 cup sugar to the four egg whites, and turn your KitchenAid on high with the whisk on and let ‘er rip. If you do not have a KitchenAid, use your hand mixer; it will wear your arm OUT, I tell you, OUT, to try to whisk those damned egg whites to where they need to be.  You can whisk the other stuff, no biggie.

Apportion your filling betwixt your crusts. You can make your own crusts or buy ’em from the grocery. It’s vanilla wafer/graham cracker crumbs (maybe 1 1/2 cups, if I were guessing), a quarter-stick of melted butter, a half-cup of sugar, and that may be generous. Can you tell I buy my crusts? Mostly because it’s already in the pans, nicely formed, and the plastic liner makes a nice lid for storing the pie, and if I barter it, it doesn’t need to come home.  Spread your beaten egg whites (if you’re doing meringue) on top of the filling. Bake the pies at 325 degrees, in the oven you have preheated, intuitively, because I did not tell you to do so, for 20 minutes.

If, like me, you are not a fan of meringue and have incorporated your egg whites into your pie, bake that sucker nekkid.

In either case, take them out, cool them on a rack (I am not sure why you should cool them on a rack. For years, I cooled them on any heat-proof surface.) When they’re room temperature, cover and refrigerate them. If you’re not using meringue, my preference is to top them with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream when you’re ready to serve; if you’re going for presentation points, you may want to pipe whipped cream into a nice artistic pattern. Or a smiley face.

In any event. It don’t get much  simpler than this. Nor does it get much better. You can reduce the lemon juice, if you want to make it a vehicle for a fresh fruit or fruit puree topping. But for me, it don’t get much better’n tart, lemony sweetness with the luxury swath of whipped cream.

So you and y’mama ‘n ’em make you a few lemon icebox pies for the Fourth. They’re a perfect follow to barbecued chicken, or burgers, or ribs — or most anything.


2 Responses to “Barter makes the world go ’round”

  1. cleavelin Says:

    I have had some of that lemon icebox pie. It is more than passing-good.

    Glad to see your good deed being rewarded. Have a happy Independence Day! 🙂

  2. Jason Stark Says:

    This is the second “pea shelling” article I have read in the past 24 hours. I know a sign when I see it!

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