A chili con-carne savory pie with cornbread crust inspired by The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
I think everyone read at least one serialized chapter book series as a kid. If you say you’ve never read a Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, Magic Treehouse, or Sweet Valley High book you are just lyin’ like a rug. One of the series I devoured as a kid was the boxcar children. It’s probably not the most well known middle grade series ever, but for some reason I thought it was the shit. So obviously, I decided to go back and read it again. Because rereading stuff you loved as kid as an adult is never disappointing at all.
Exactly what it sounds like: peach pie, inspired by “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot
This month (June 8th) saw the 100th anniversary of the publication of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It is an odd but seminal poem in the American canon that uses the full range of poetic devices to give texture to one man’s struggle with age.
A spring quiche with peas, asparagus, parsnips, prosciutto, and goat cheese inspired by “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost
It took an engaging, enthusiastic, patient seventh grade English teacher to show me that I could enjoy reading the classics as much as I enjoyed reading for pleasure. Poetry is a great example of this. It felt like all of my peers were so in touch with the imagery and the emotion of the poems we were reading, while I trailed along completely lost. I didn’t understand what was going on – there were flowers, but they weren’t flowers, they were feelings – it couldn’t hold my attention the way that Lord of the Rings did. And then Mr. Laszlo picked up Robert Frost, said “this one is for Hanna” (to the entire class’s confusion), and read “Mending Wall” aloud.
“…Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him…”
My ears perked up. That crafty man had read enough of my bad, 13-year-old epic fantasy to know which poems to show me. He showed me the common ground between the things I wanted to read and the classics, creating a little niche in the canon just for me. These were the things that I needed to read.
(Just wait until I start baking Yeats.)
Sugar cream custard with chunks of pineapple, inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Don’t panic! The key both to pie baking and intergalactic hitchhiking, as it turns out. Irreverent, absurd, entirely improbable, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a pillar of 20th century science fiction distinguished by its tongue in cheek sense of humor.
A creamy mushroom and root vegetable savory pie inspired by The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
I wasn’t a very strong reader as a kid and it was hard for me to find books that I found engaging. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit bridged the gap between the casual reading of popular literature, and a lifetime literary obsession. I discovered a whole genre, a lineage, of fantasy and a way of thinking I had thought particular to me. Disappearing inside this world, which was somehow the joint creation of a man thirty years gone and of my own imagination, was magical.
Pumpkin spice hand pies inspired by the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.
It’s almost Halloween; goblins, ghouls, and ghosts are abroad in the muggle world. If you’re like me then you’ve done your apple picking, your pumpkin hunting, and your woodland hiking. But at the end of a long day of jumping in leaf piles, you need something a little sweet to go with that cup of hot apple cider. I wanted to get this recipe out before that particular flavor of witchy October magic passes, while there’s still time to curl up with a pumpkin beer before we start mulling cider and delving into winter holiday territory. So here it is! This one goes out to anyone who spent their preteens waiting for their Hogwarts letter.
Shoofly pie with pecans and a poached apple garnish, inspired by The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
It’s really hard to sell people on this pie. The particular, bitter tang of molasses cut with woody pecans, balanced with the sweet, syrupy taste of an apple poached soft in cider, cinnamon, and brown sugar; it all takes a backseat to the creepy-crawly stigma of Kafka’s disturbing novella. It is, however, an excellent pie for Autumn!
Chocolate ganache under a layer of mint julep chess and fresh whipped cream, inspired by The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.
For me (and probably for many others as well) Faulkner is an extremely difficult writer to grapple with. He’s thoughtful, dramatic, and his prose is gloriously tangled. He’s also verbose as hell. Man’s got paragraphs for days; they just go on for pages and pages at a time. Reading Faulkner, to me, feels like swimming at the height of summer, when the water is thick and salty and warm; you dive in and when you finally resurface you feel like you haven’t had a clear, clean breath in years. It’s heavy stuff, which is also what makes it extremely rewarding to read.
A blackberry-peach fruit pie inspired by The Princess Bride by William Goldman
I grew up on the film adaptation of The Princess Bride, to this day it’s probably my favorite movie of all time. Like the kids of Florin and Guilder, I spent my childhood terrified of the Fire Swamp and the ROUSs, but the humor, adventure, and romance of the movie woke something story-hungry in me at an impressionable age. However, even knowing every line from the movie by heart (my family and friends refuse to watch it with me anymore), I had never read the book! Inconceivable! I figured if I was going to call myself a true fan, I had to go back to the beginning.
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.