3. Sweet Suspense

Apple-PieThe following Sunday I got up at 7:00am to take the pies out of the freezer and put them in the oven. I sat and waited patiently for them to brown. To bide my time, I checked my email: nothing interesting. Then I checked facebook: no one was up yet to post anything. I read my horoscope: “You are having great success and this success is going to increase today. Keep working hard in your job and those who are higher up than you will soon notice.”

That was excellent news. If I didn’t end up the winner of the contest, I would at least be recognized. At least I could try to believe that. I didn’t even like apple pie; I just liked making it. Last year’s pie was a bit of a disaster, but I still advanced to the semi-finals. I was much more organized this year and the recipe was the perfect, traditional apple pie with my own twist. I called it “Barfly Apple Pie.” The secret ingredients were Pabst Blue Ribbon and bacon fat in the crust and a splash of Malort (a foul-tasting wormwood schnapps popular among hipsters in Chicago, particularly at the end of the night when one has nothing left to lose but a small scrap of dignity) in the filling. It wasn’t enough to take away from the pie, but just enough to give it an interesting — but not disgusting — flavor.

The pies came out toasty and beautiful without the crust cracking to let the filling ooze out. They were lovely.

Matt picked me up at 9:30am to drive me and my precious pies to Holstein Park where judges were set to taste 165 apple pies for the Annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest.

I brought my pies in, set them down and picked up my contestant number along with my disappointingly light schwag bag. Apparently, the contest didn’t garner as much support this year as the year before; there were no fun aprons or pie servers given out to contestants, only a complimentary ticket to taste pies with the public after the judges had their way with them.

It was a bummer of a bag.

Matt waited patiently in the car for me.

“Were there a lot of people there?” He asked.

“Not yet,” I answered. “I would imagine people will be trickling in and out for the next two hours.”

“How many people entered?”

“I think there are 165 pies this year. There were 125 pies last year. Debbie should really enter. It’s a lot of fun. I think she’d enjoy it.”

“I’ve mentioned it to her, but she is not competitive at all.”

“It doesn’t really feel that competitive; it’s just fun,” I urged. “Though, I guess some people do take it very seriously. I talked to someone who entered the contest first year and she told me that the pastry chef at Blackbird entered. She said she was very cocky and sure that she would win the contest. But when she didn’t advance, she took back both her pies and stomped out of the event.”

Apple-Pie“Really? That’s so lame. I mean, you can’t expect to win anything. I would think you have to do your best work and hold your breath.”

“Yeah. I’m confident in my pies, but I’m nervous. There’s nothing that can relieve my anxiety until I know the results.”

Matt pulled up to my house and let me out.

“Good luck with the contest. I’ll try to stop by later.”

“You don’t have to, but thanks. And thanks for driving me.”

“No problem.”

I closed the car door, walked up to my apartment and collapsed on my bed. I napped until contest time.

****

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