An Orange, Lemon, and Key-Lime Pie with a Graham Cracker Crust, Inspired By The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
It took me a couple of readings and a few years of living in New York City to understand the complexity of wit and emotion in Gatsby. When I first read it in 11th grade I didn’t like the characters, they seemed shallow and dysfunctional, and yet it seemed like all my friends were invested in this great American romance. When I read it again a few years later I realized that not only had my instincts about the book been right, but that its genius also stems from the way social commentary is layered into the characters’ personalities. Lesson learned: you don’t have to like a character for them to be well written.
Nick Carraway is a recent Yale graduate who has secured a position as a bond salesman in New York during the sweltering city summer of 1922. He takes up residence in a small house on Long Island, in the new-monied town of West Egg. His humble lodgings are in the shadow of a mansion belonging to the elusive Mr. Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is known for throwing lavish, elegant parties where New York’s rich and famous can get totally shitfaced. But in a classy way.
All of this is to impress Daisy Buchanan (Nick’s cousin and the wife of old-money hothead Tom Buchanan) whom Gatsby was in love with back in his younger, poorer days before the war. Tom and Daisy live across the bay in a house with a green light at the end of their dock, a green light that comes to embody all of Gatsby’s misguided goals: money, Daisy, the American Dream.
I won’t spoil the rest of the book because the ensuing shitstorm includes some of literature’s most elegant, effortless, and yet unexpected twists, but needless to say it’s full of Fitzgerald’s astute social observations and a lot of booze.
Notes from the Piebrary:
Everyone I know who has read The Great Gatsby has taken something different away from it, no one can seem to agree on what it means. I’ve heard you identify with it differently at different parts of your life; it’s one of those books that is interesting to pick up and reread every five to ten years and see how it evolves along with your experience. I can vouch for this personally.
The popular idea seems to be that it’s about chasing the American Dream and how that will corrupt you. The last time I read it I came away with the impression that everyone is awful in their own special way. Call me a cynic, but at least in Gatsby’s world human nature is to use and abuse other people in our blind pursuit of happiness. Plus, what we think will make us happy is often not conducive to our functional well-being and getting it only creates more problems, makes us more restless. It also reminded me that New York, then and now, is a glorious and messed up place.
I find people’s varying interpretations of this book fascinating! If you’ve read it and have a theory or opinion, please feel free to share in the comments!
Parsing this Pie:
One of my favorite images from this book is not the omniscient eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, nor is it Daisy’s voice “full of money;” there is a morning-after scene where Nick goes to Gatsby’s house in the wake of a raucous party and finds crates upon crates of used orange husks out behind the kitchen door. Gatsby likes his orange juice fresh squeezed. To me it’s a subtle reminder of that oh-so reckless, indulgent human capacity to use and discard.
For this pie I wanted to combine the infamous image of the green light with the opulence of citrus fruit; the cut lemons and limes of a speakeasy and fresh squeezed juice nursing a hangover. Normally I hate to add artificial color to pie, I like pie’s naturally colorful look, but for this pie I wanted to work in the theme of the green light as well. And if you’re going to put on a pretense, pretend to be a little shinier than you are, The Great Gatsby is the pie to do it. So, yes, that absurd green color is as fake as Gatsby’s friends!
– 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
– 6 tbsp butter
– ¼ cup sugar
Citrus custard filling:
– 5 egg yolks
– 1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
– zest 1 lemon
– zest 1 orange
– zest 1 lime
– ½ cup lime, lemon, orange juice combined
– a drop of green food coloring
– 1 ½ cup heavy cream
– ¼ – ½ cup sugar
People think that good key lime is difficult to bake – that it takes extra effort or skill – when the truth is it’s one of the simplest!
Mix the graham cracker crumbs with 6 tbsp fully melted butter and sugar. It should come together crumbly, but hold when you press it into the bottom of your pie pan without sliding down the sides. You do not want it to be too buttery! Pre-bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 10-15 mins.
While the crust cools use an electric beater to beat the egg yolks. Add in condensed milk and beat until smooth. Carefully add the juice and the zest; getting limejuice in your eye from over-zealous beating is the worst. Also mix in a delicate amount of green food coloring, one drop should do. Pour the mixture into the waiting crust and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. The edges should be visibly set, perhaps forming hairline cracks, and the center should be mostly set and not jiggle when you shake the pan lightly from side to side.
Allow the pie to cool and place in the refrigerator until fully chilled.
Top with homemade whipped cream and serve with whatever booze you’ve got in the house, or all the booze you’ve got in the house. If at all possible, eat while drowning yourself in gin rickeys by the pool at the height of an unbearably sticky city summer.
Cheers everyone, Happy Fourth of July! Enjoy the American Dream!