Melissa Bakes an Extraterrestrial Pie


Whoever coined the phrase ‘easy as pie’ obviously never tried to bake one on Homeland!

Let me explain. Blue is breaking out all over, as they say! Every bush and tree is covered with tiny blue buds that will blossom into green leaves and spring flowers; and the weather has gotten much warmer recently. This has caused our local grocery store to overflow with all sorts of early fruits and vegetables from the farms in Lakeshore Province. I found some nice blue berries that were about the size of small grapes, and inspiration struck: Why not bake a pie? Harshan has to work late, so I have plenty of time.

So I bought the berries and carried them happily home, envisioning expressions of ecstasy and delight on Harshan’s and Darryl’s faces! However, reality soon brought me back down to Homeland. I searched through every cookbook in the house, and I couldn’t find a recipe for anything remotely resembling a pie!

Fortunately, a quick phone call revealed that John Anderson had faced this problem before me, and knew a solution. Even better, he rushed right over to help! Before long, the kitchen looked like a war zone, and we both looked like casualties.

“The reason you have to pulverize the flour,” John shouted over the food processor, “is that Homelander flour is too grainy to make pie pastry.” He flipped off the switch, and the blade lurched to a sudden halt. “That ought to be enough,” he said, peering into the container. “Now you need one-fourth the volume in butter.”

“Butter?” I asked, “I’ve always used shortening before! Are you sure this will turn out all right?”

“Melissa, believe me, I’ve tried all the solid cooking fats there are,” he said with a sigh, “and the only thing that works is butter!”

I was skeptical about that, but I mixed it in anyway. While I was doing that, John started the oven so that it would be preheated to 448 degrees Halakanian. The butter and flour mixture soon became very grainy.

“I think it’s time to add in the water,” I announced.

John filled a small cup from the faucet, and handed it to me with a word of caution. “On Earth, you probably put in just a teensy bit too much water to compensate for the flour you add when you roll out the dough.”

I was flatly amazed. “How did you know that?”

“Everybody does it,” he said with a shrug. “However, since you’re using butter instead of shortening, you don’t want to do that.” He saw the question mark on my face. “The butter has water in it,” he explained, “shortening doesn’t.”

Now that makes sense.

Everything went smoothly from there. As you’ve probably guessed, I don’t have a real pie pan, so I used a shallow square roasting dish with sloping sides. (My first square pie!) I rolled out the bottom crust, lined the pan, and put in the filling, which consisted of the berries, mixed with sweet-syrup, flour, and a pungent herb. Then I put on the top crust, punching it with lots of holes so that the berry gases could escape during baking.

I slid the pie into the oven with a sigh of satisfaction and relief, and stared at it through the glass door. “What now?” I asked, with my hands on my hips.

“Bake it for sixteen minutes,” he advised, “then reduce the heat and bake for forty-eight minutes longer.”

We were just finishing the clean-up when we heard the front door open and shut.

“Hi Mom!” Darryl shouted, but he didn’t sound as cheerful as usual. After a few seconds he dragged himself into the kitchen, greeted John, and asked about the smell from the oven.

“I’m baking a pie—with John’s help,” I said with pride. “It won’t be done until half-past twenty-five o’clock. Your dad has to work late tonight, so we’re eating late.”

This was not your simple run-of-the-mill ho-hum mood; Darryl seemed downright dejected! Certainly my news about a late supper couldn’t cause so much devastation, so I suspected some other cause.

“What’s the matter, honey? Something go wrong?”

Darryl stood there for a while, just looking at his feet. “A bunch of us went to the park after school to see the blue buds.”

“So what’s so awful about that?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he replied softly, climbing into a chair. “It was kinda neat, I guess. We even saw some Hugmups! Can I have a snack?”

I handed Darryl an apple-like fruit from the refrigerator.

“You saw Hugmups this early in the year?” John asked in astonishment. “That’s very unusual!”

“Our teacher said that there was a mild winter in the mountains this year,” Darryl explained as if by rote, “and that means they’ll come out of hibernation early.” He crunched a bite out of his fruit.

“What did they look like?” I asked, trying to distract him from his gloomy mood.

“They were neat!” he answered in temporary enthusiasm. “They were about as tall as me, except they had fur all over their bodies. Can I have a drink? One was black with a brown stripe, two were brown, and one had white fur on his face and ears!”

“That’s an old one,” John observed, “white fur comes with old age. Don’t you think they look like teddy bears?”

I placed a glass of water on the table next to Darryl.

“Nah,” Darryl said between chomps on his fruit. “They just look like furry people.” He tossed the fruit core into the trash, and looked at me imploringly.

“No, Darryl,” I said as I walked over to the oven, “we’re going to have dinner pretty soon.” I turned down the temperature. “John, won’t you join us? It’s the least I can do to repay your help!”

“Thank you very much, Melissa, but Panu and I already had our dinner,” he said, glancing at the clock. “I just came to help! In fact, I have to leave now or I’ll miss my evening seminar.”

I thanked John thoroughly for his assistance and saw him to the door. When I returned to the kitchen, I found Darryl staring at the pie through the glass oven door.

“Now you tell me what’s bothering you,” I cooed. I tried to hug him, but he pushed me off.

“Harla got a Hugmup,” he whispered, and I understood. Darryl’s driving ambition has been to ‘catch’ a Hugmup ever since he first learned about them. It’s a big disappointment to watch someone else get something that you want very badly for yourself, especially when you’re only nine years old.

In my gentlest and most loving tone, I reminded Darryl that it’s still early in the season, and that people get adopted by Hugmups as late as Seventhmonth. So there is still plenty of time. Children have a disconcerting way of rapidly shaking off moods, so Darryl recovered even before I was finished consoling him!

Right about then, the front door opened and slammed shut!

“Harshan?” I called, “We’re in the kitchen!”

There was no answer, but someone had definitely entered the apartment! I forgot to lock the front door, I realized in panic, but then I remembered the reason why: you can’t lock a door with no lock on it! With our crime rate, it would be a wasteful extravagance.

“Don’t worry, Mom,” Darryl said, working up some nonchalance, “I’ll see who it is!” He walked cautiously into the entry way, peeking around the corner first.

“Wow!” he shouted, “Oh, wow! This is neat! Mom, you’re never going to believe this!”

He returned to the kitchen, with a Hugmup in tow! A brown one with white tufts of fur on his face!

A Hugmup in the house means there’s work to be done: get a chair and set another place at the table, for starters. If John is right about white fur, then this one probably knows some table manners. We’ll need to rig a bed for the Hugmup in Darryl’s room, but that can wait until Harshan’s home and dinner is over.

The pie turned out great, but no one really noticed.

I just wish there had been time to give the Hugmup a bath before dinner!