The Temperature Inside: Blueberry Pie with Thyme & Honey + Fearless Chocolate Winners

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

-When your karma turns sour, make it sweet with pie.-

I have terrible apartment karma. Faulty buildings seem to lie dormant in my life like a virus, occasionally flaring up with all the intensity and rage of full blown outbreak. No, wait, karma assumes I’ve done something bad to deserve this. Maybe in a past life I was a Saxon who toppled some great tower or other architectural testament to man’s vanity and artistic nature? I’m not sure, but I'm pretty sure I haven’t done anything in this life to warrant this string of luck.

Maybe that’s it? I just have bad luck. A dark cloud of doom and asbestos plaguing me with bad wiring and old pipes.

“Then again,” I said to myself while standing in my bedroom looking at the giant water-filled hole that had been jackhammered in only hours earlier, “maybe it’s just freak coincidence.”

-...Or I'm just god's hacky sack. Whatever.-

The whole mess started a few days earlier. The temperature outside was a roaring 100 degrees and you could feel the heat smother you like a hot, wet blanket. Even indoors there was little escape. Every fan was turned on, cold drinks were poured, and clothes were stripped down till we were practically bare in effort to combat the withering heat. None of it made much difference.

By the time night arrived and the outside air had fallen to a more tepid 80-something we were still toasting like stale white bread in an oven. “It’s hotter in here than outside. How is that possible?” said BF. We had thrown open all the windows and every fan was spinning so fast they were almost ready to take off and fly away.

“That’s it. I’m done. I breaking the First Law,” I said.

The First Law in our apartment is one written in stone: Thou Shalt Not Use the Air Conditioning or Central Heat. We’re a thrifty bunch, able to squeeze blood from a penny, and from that blood - through dark and fiscal alchemy - make another penny. The temperature controlled air only goes on when things are at their worst. As I said my words I could taste the salt on my lips from the dribbling sweat and I clicked the thermostat on and set it to 80 degrees. Nothing crazy - like 75, of all things! - just something simple.

-The Second Law: Whomever Touches My Berries Gets Slapped in the Face.-

We all collapsed and tried to sleep waiting for the cold air to stir and temper the stifling summer heat.

I awoke in Vietnam. The atmosphere in the bedroom was thick and sticky, near-tropical in heat and humidity. I listened and could hear the AC dragon roaring away but it wasn’t even competing. You could feel the wet air cling to you. It pulled you down like a tantruming child gripping to your pant leg for whatever self-serving reason; strong and just as frustrating.

HOW?! The cold air was blowing. It made no sense.

I walked into the bathroom and was blown away by the heat. It wasn't just oppressive, it was dominating and all-encompassing. Vengeful and humid it was even worse than the bathroom. The linoleum floor was white hot and I immediately jumped off of it. I investigated it further and, standing on the carpet, I pressed my hand against the hard floor. It was hotter than summer blacktop. I could actually see the air waver as the heat radiated from below making the far corner of the bathroom shimmer like water in an anything-but-average household mirage.

I went outside and pulled down the thermometer hanging on the patio post. 68F outside. I went back to the bathroom and put it on the floor. The mercury rose. And rose. And continued to rise until it stopped at 130F.

-Not hot enough to bake a pie on, but still, you know, Jesus Christ that's really hot.-

I noticed then, that my feet were just barely moist. Hardly noticeable, but they were. I suddenly realized that this was because the carpet was, too.

A few days later I'm looking down a hole in my bedroom, which in fact is the wrong hole. The apartment manager is having the plumber out again to take out the bathroom sink and jackhammering a new hole into my floor to get through the concrete slab and find where the broken hot water pipe is.

At least they’ve drained the water out and the apartment is no longer as balmy as a Laotian August. Given, my carpet is ripped up, the furniture is all on plastic risers (though it seems we lost a bookshelf), the place reeks of mold and mildew, it took TWO damn days to get the plumber out here, and the kitten is so stressed she started peeing in on the wettest and smelliest parts of the floor; but, hey, at least the temperature is down and they're drilling the right hole this time. Maybe. I hope.

So, you know, progress.

I’m actually taking the whole thing rather well. I’m horrifyingly used to disaster. Years ago, I was almost killed when the ceiling in my bathroom suddenly collapsed in on itself from a broken pipe. Later, another busted pipe destroyed my cookbooks. In 2009, there was the fire that destroyed - literally - everything and left me homeless for a month. So, yes, a slight bit of water doesn’t phase me much.* In fact, I’ve been quite collected.

Mostly, at least. BF is actually far more calm than me. He handles everything with quiet grace and simple acceptance that things are just going to be what they be. Heck, during the fire when we were standing outside in the rain at two in the morning and I was losing my mind watching my apartment burn down his advice was a placid, “Don’t panic.”

-My response was, “The firemen are chainsawing the roof off as the rest of the place is blazing to the ground. If there was ever an appropriate time to panic then it’s now.”-

He’s been a trooper and hero through all of this. While I’m usually panicky, freaking out, and stressed, he’s usually doing everything in his power to ease the situation (read: Garrett). He’ll make dinner, give the cats attention, and do all those little things around the house without being asked like weed the garden or take out the trash because he knows how that little stuff irks and distracts me.

He also has the amazing superpower to remain levelheaded and make me laugh when I’m at my breaking point. Something no one else seems able to do.

Yesterday, I yelled at BF for the first time. Ever. The water was spreading, I had lost a bookcase, and Zola had just taken one of her foulest poops to date on my comforter. I was behind deadline and already stressed from the everything happening. Frustrated, tired, and at my limit Brian tried to comfort me and, so, I screamed at him.

I screamed that I was tired. I screamed that I couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much bad luck, or karma, or whatever. I screamed that I needed it to finally stop. I wasn’t yelling so much at him because of him. I was yelling at him because he was there and I wanted someone to yell at who would take it.

And he did.

And I felt awful.

He looked at me. He didn't yell back. He just looked at me and smiled. “You should make pie with all those blueberries we have in the fridge,” said BF.

“What?” I was too confused by the sudden shift in topic. If I have a weakness it’s the non sequitur.

“My mom used to make blueberry pie. It’s my favorite,” he smiled.

“Really? I thought cheesecake was your favorite? How did I not know this? You’ve never mentioned that.” The non sequitur is my weakness because I have to follow it to its conclusion. Like a raccoon with a new shiny-shiny thing, I am curious and easily distracted. Brian knows this and how to use it to his advantage to diffuse my occasional self-implosion/explosion.

“Yes, oh my God, blueberry pie…” he grabbed me and nuzzled his gruffly face into the crook of my neck, “NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!!!” He began to tickle me with scruffy kisses, a billion pin-prickles grazing and digging along my skin. I giggled and squirmed and tried to escape his hold.

Amidst the piles of rubble, the torn up carpet, the humidity, broken furniture, and cat poo we fell to the floor where we wiggled and laughed over the thought of blueberry pie.

-I'm a pushover for scruffy kisses and BF's a pushover for pie. We compliment each other well this way.-

The apartment is back in working order. Everything is as it once was. Looking around you wouldn’t think anything happened. In fact, since they cleaned the carpets the place actually looks better than before (minus a poorly reconstructed cabinet in the hallway.)

I’m still weary over my renter’s karma. Why wouldn't I be? Still, one can only hope...

Oh, yes, there's also the matter of the winners of the Fearless Chocolate contest. Winners were picked through a random number generator.

The winner of the chocolate bars is:

And the winner of the chocolate mail is:

Be sure to Email Me so I can get your mailing information and you can get your cocoa on.

Blueberry Pie with Honey and Thyme
The recipe is one adapted from Simply Recipes. I used her blueberry pie recipe practically verbatim, but added 2 teaspoons of chopped thyme and 2 tablespoons of honey to the blueberry mix. Easy peasy. Since I'm not a fan of stealing traffic I encourage you to go there for the recipe and adapt it as needed. The thyme gives it a very old world, but modern taste that's just breathtakingly good.

A special thanks to Elise Bauer, of Simply Recipes. She let me sleep at her place during all the construction. She also gave me some advice in constructing this pie in her kitchen while she worked. She's one of my besties for a reason. XOXO, Elise.

Lastly, this is also my Pie Party post. A big thanks to Shauna for organizing this; and to Irvin, Ashley, and Justin for the idea of making pie together from far apart!

*Fire. Water. All I need is wind and earth to round things out. Two more disasters to look forward to in my future?


  1. My goodness Garrett - you do have really bad luck! Glad your apartment is back to normal. That pie looks scrumptious. Ive been in a real cooking slump this summer - maybe those pics will inspire me!

    I'm a little in love with your BF now, BTW. :)

  2. I have the opposite side of that karma. When my sister's apartment caught fire - they all stayed at my house. When my parents house had a flood - they all stayed at my house. When my brother didn't know what to do after college - he ended up at my house. It's true. It's a great time to make pie.

    So glad to hear you had someone to take you in.

  3. That really is a string of bad luck! So glad you've made it through to the other side. We just ended 4 months of lead abatement work on our house, complete with government intervention due to the contractors violating federal law! We figure we're due for some really fabulous karma now.

    That pie looks like the perfect coping mechanism. I love honey and thyme with fruit!

  4. How can one so young be so wise? You amaze me. The solution to the karma thing is to just let BF or room mate pick the apartments. Then it is their karma, and not yours.
    Good kitchen karma is a powerful thing as well, and you have that!

  5. ohhh... kitten poops are killer. How does something so stinky come out of something so small?

    Also, we have First Rule here too. Good thing you never came out to visit in the winter.

  6. It's always such a pleasant surprise how well herbs and fruit go together. I like to my my pie dough with chopped thyme and rosemary in it, and then I add some basil or something to the fruit itself. Perfect companions.

  7. ZOMG this is a fantastic post. You have ridiculous apartment karma. But thankfully you have survived it all!

    And I love your BF. He sounds wonderful. Anyone that love blueberry pie is a friend of mine.

  8. I can't believe your apartment luck! This entire experience sounds awful to me! I live in Phoenix and am seriously addicted to air conditioning, but like you, set it around 80 degrees. Waking up to that bathroom would have driven me crazy though! You definitely deserve this pie after it all :) Looks fantastic!

  9. Balsamic: Yes, I have good people in my life. =)

    Tara: Thyme is my secret weapon when baking with fruit.

    BurntToast: Not wise, I'm just good at faking it. I have no idea what's going on usually.

    Casey: Your house is freezing. You need to break the law more often.

    Irvin: I hope you can meet him sometime soon!

  10. Oh my dear, what a horrible mess. Isn't it wonderful when our better halves are exactly what we need when we need it. My husband is much calmer and level headed than I am and for that I am so grateful. Such a sweet story in the midst of not so sweet circumstances. And that pie! I adore herbs with fruit. Lovely. So glad this story had such a sweet and delicious ending. Happy Pie Party day to you Garrett.

  11. Sounds like you have a keeper of a bf Garrett :) I suggest you keep the man supplied in pie, he can help keep you supplied in calm! I'm glad that the tropical weather in your apartment is over! And now I have a pie to bake...

  12. I think the time has come for me to tackle blueberry pie! I've always been afraid of it, but I'm braver now. Your pie looks a little bit of alright! :)

    btw, if you think apartment karma is bad, never ever buy an antique house!

  13. Rebecca: I will definitely take that into consideration. ;)

  14. It's my first time stumbling onto your blog and let me just say I'm totally obsessed now. I love your writing! On the subject of your bad luck with pipes, have you ever considered a Magneto-like mutant power? Might be worth thinking about

  15. Mags: I love how nerdy that comment got. It could only get nerdier if I said I wanted Joseph-powers instead (because, you know, X-men in the 90's).

  16. And you learned how to make a lattice crust! Beautiful pie Garrett. It's gorgeous.

    Gotta work on that apartment karma though, sheesh!

  17. Ya know, in my area the property managers do background checks on prospective tenants. I'm thinking it's usually criminal and credit, but they just might create a new category just for you: expensive shit happens wherever tenant moves in.

    I'm sorry you are going through this. But you are right. Brian seems like a real gem.

  18. Dear Garret,

    thank you!
    I´m a long time reader from Europe.
    I had a really bad week in the emotion department and you just made me smile.
    Thank you so much!

  19. Mara: So sorry that you had a bad week, but I'm glad that I was able to make you smile. Thank you for such a wonderful compliment and I hope that things turn up for you. =)

  20. I love thyme and blueberry together. I've done some cakes with the duo but I haven't tried it in a pie. I will not have to for sure; this pie looks incredible!

    Thanks for sharing.

  21. Here's to making the best of a bad situation! For the past few months I've had to deal with an insane roommate and trying to find an affordable apt on my own in New York. If it weren't for breaks for cooking and baking, I would probably have had a meltdown too. Kudos to your BF for knowing the perfect things to say, and to you for making such a gorgeous pie!

  22. So sorry about your apartment, but the pie looks delicious!

  23. Garrett - I first found you on Simply Recipes (searching for chinese almond cookies - so that I could improve on the basic). Immediately I knew the recipe was the bomb and since April, have made maybe 15 double batches. You have made me look like a freakin hero to clients, friends and church.

    But now I have found your blog, and am totally hooked. LOVE how you write, and craft the story. Your BF sounds just like mine, (you sound just like me!) and hey, it's so fascinating to read here. Thank you for the culinary fix I need(I was in F&B Ritz and upscale like you) and rarely can find the sublime such as thyme with blueberries. I also use Chinese 5 spice as little hints in things. Cant wait to see what else I find here! Brad

  24. Brad: Those cookies are the bomb, and am glad you found your way here. ;)

  25. I love your blog so much! Just started reading it today and I'm only sorry I didn't find it sooner, some of these posts are actually making me laugh out loud. That pie sounds wonderful and tasty and almost as heartwarming as you describing how much he means to you, it reminds me intensely of my (previous boyfriend, now fiance) and what we are to each other. I am definitely the stress ball and he's the zen-master of calm. :-)

  26. It's amazing how even one little drop of gluten can ruin my day. When I started my gluten diet every once in a while would have a little treat like a piece of pizza - immediate pain and cramps. I have to be very careful! Now my gluten diet is under control and life couldn't be any better. Your website is the best!


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