Yesterday was Kim’s birthday so we celebrated in a quiet sort of way. With Oliver back at Small Liberal Arts College it was just the three of us gathered around – me, Kim, and Lauren – and since none of us are very good at actually procuring gifts at the specific time required (vide supra, re: movable feast tradition) it was mostly just an evening of good food and good company.
At a certain point that’s really all you ask.
Other than a card and the promise of a birthday present (currently in transit), my main contribution to this was to make the cake, and this year it was a ricotta pie. About twenty years ago my mom collected a bunch of recipes from the various scattered branches of my family and my grandmother’s ricotta pie was one of them. My mom had to translate it out of my grandfather’s directions and there’s a certain amount of wiggle room that comes with that process, but so it goes. As my mom said in the collection, “you’re making a pie, not building a bomb. It won’t blow up if you’re a tad over or under.”
If you’ve never had one of these things, you should. They’re a traditional Italian Easter dessert – apparently my grandmother would make one every year when my mom was younger – and they’re rich in the way that something with two pounds of ricotta cheese and a dozen eggs would be. They’re really, really good.
We have a lot of eggs. Lauren’s chickens have been laying like mad for months now, and while we do the best we can to keep up the fact is that they pile up now and then. This was a good way to use up a bunch of them in a tasty manner. Lauren’s chickens produce wonderful eggs, by the way. I’ve made this pie several times and it has never been that golden yellow before.
The thing about this pie is that it has a genuinely old-fashioned taste to it. There is no way you would ever confuse this for a recipe created anytime in the last fifty years. It tastes like the sort of thing that a society a lot closer to the edge of things than the modern US is at present would make to celebrate the fact that life is good anyway. Eggs. Ricotta. An orange. Two shots of whiskey. Sugar. All things that were often scarce back in the day and treasured for that reason. It is a time capsule in a baking dish.
We didn’t have it much when I was a kid – by then the health mavens had ginned up a ruckus that made people believe that anything that rich was something akin to cyanide and gunpowder stew and scared everyone away from such things – but I do remember it appearing now and again.
There is nothing like good food to remind you of good times and create new ones on a grey November evening.