Mississippi Mud Pie (& heartbreak)

Heartbreak is…heartbreak is… heartbreak is what, exactly?

Mississippi Mud Pie | via Midwest Nice Blog

Heartbreak is different for everyone. Different for the same person. Changing and shifting and morphing. At least, that’s how it’s been for me.

It has been painful, of course. Annoying, aggravating, cursed, unrelenting and seemingly unending. Those too. It has ebbed and flowed, ceasing altogether some days only to rear its ugly head the very next, with a force that quite literally took my breath away. It has been fleeting, flickering into my consciousness unexpectedly only to be whisked away in a moment. It has tugged gently at the edges of my memories, in those early morning minutes between sleeping and waking, when the dreams still feel real, before reality has set in and my mind and heart are still weightless, grief not weighing them down.

It has been necessary. Necessary to avoid “his side” of town. Necessary to avert my eyes when I think I spy his truck on the road. Necessary to sit in a hot, dark shower, water hitting my skin until it’s red and raw, the sounds of this song reverberating on the bathroom walls. Necessary to feel the ache in my chest, the hurt in my lungs, the catch in the back of my throat from another bout of sobs racking my entire body.

Mississippi Mud Pie | via Midwest Nice Blog

It has been strong.

I know I am stronger.

There was a time I didn’t know that, though. A time when all I could be was left. Alone. Again. I know I am not the first person to be broken up with, to be broken hearted, and I know I won’t be the last. I know there are worse things that can happen to a person, that other people have a harder time, but I’ll be damned if that means my experience and emotions hurt any less. Are worth any less.

Mississippi Mud Pie | via Midwest Nice Blog

My friend Kristen, in all her unending wisdom, equated it to a death. And as melodramatic as that sounds, as all of this has sounded thus far, something did die. A relationship is a living and breathing thing, and when it ends it leaves a void, a chasm. It dies. There were hopes and dreams and plans that ceased to exist. And for a while, I thought a part of me had gone along with them.

Mississippi Mud Pie | via Midwest Nice Blog

In truth, that’s the main reason for my silence these long, winding weeks (going on months). Sure, it was partially the new job, the juggling of a new schedule and new responsibilities, a desire to perform well and make connections with my new coworkers, impress the new boss. But, mostly, it has been heartache. Restarting my life without the person I was planning it around. Leaning into sadness and loneliness, leaning onto the pillars my family and friends have provided.

But I’ve gotten used to it. Or, at least, I’m getting used to it. That’s what we as humans do. We adjust, we carry on. Even as much as we fight and fear change, homeostasis is a biological inevitability. I have made new routines, started new traditions. I have grown comfortable falling asleep alone and waking up that way, too. I have begun filling my life, and my heart, back up. I have chosen to make changes after one was forced upon me.

That includes changes around here, too. To be more honest, more intentional, for better or for worse. I still firmly intend to share food and drink, but with less fluff, more substance. I don’t want to put up a post just for the sake of it. I want meaning. I want emotion. I want to be myself. Because, according to Kristen, who once again surprised me with a nugget of necessary wisdom, “that’s all I should ever be.”

And I am emotional. I know no other way. I have been called an open book many times – sometimes in admiration, sometimes in antipathy. My friend Danielle has expressed equal amounts of both after seeing the big, beating heart on my sleeve. She’ll probably think this post is too much info, would never do such a thing herself, but won’t ever hold it against me. Because she knows me. She loves me. So does Kristen. So does my dad. My mom. My grandma, sisters, aunts. Robin and Bunny, too. Shawn and Dawn, without a doubt. They prove there is still so much love in my life, even if I haven’t found the love of my life. Everyone who has rallied around me has shown me that, gifted me that. And I am eternally grateful.

Mississippi Mud Pie | via Midwest Nice Blog

In some small attempt to repay them for their love and kindness, their shoulders and strength, I have made treats. Efforts at returning the love so freely given to me. Cakes, cookies, pies. I know it is a small gesture, not necessarily life altering or affirming for them, that they don’t get the same buoying from a batch of biscuits that I get from a phone call back home. That their hearts aren’t as heavy, don’t need as much lifting.

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Mini Mixed Berry Balsamic Hand Pies

I’m a bit high-strung. (My friend Danielle is probably going “What? You? Nooooooo.” in a way only she can as she reads this.) You could say I’m Type A. I like to plan and organize and be prepared and feel accomplished.

Mini Mixed Berry Balsamic Hand Pies | via Midwest Nice Blog

And when I can’t do that it makes me feel a bit out of control, a bit frenzied and harried. When my to-do list doesn’t get done, or I fail to plan something, or something doesn’t go as planned, it generally sends me into a tailspin that is dizzying and defeating. I’m left feeling overwhelmed and/or underachieved.

Yesterday was an exercise against that. Monday was too. Today will be again. As will the rest of the week, I’m sure.

Mini Mixed Berry Balsamic Hand Pies | via Midwest Nice Blog

It started Monday morning when I ran over a nail. I spent two hours struggling, straining, and swearing (sorry, Grandma) while patching my tire. My hands are scraped and scratched to the high heavens. I have bruises on my elbows, knees, shoulders and shins. There were a lot of tears, a weepy phone call to my dad, and a lot of moments when I wanted to give up.

Mini Mixed Berry Balsamic Hand Pies | via Midwest Nice Blog

But I didn’t. I kept going. I got the damned thing patched and made an appointment to get new tires put on my car (something that was due, anyway). Even if that was a detour my day couldn’t recover from, the accomplishment of knowing I was strong enough to do it stymied any feelings of inadequacy I felt at not checking items off my little list. It was enough to not do it all.

Mini Mixed Berry Balsamic Hand Pies | via Midwest Nice Blog

Tuesday was the same. I went to the mechanic, prepared to spend both time and money (for which I’m in short supply of both) getting new tires put on. Only to find out they had ordered the wrong tires and wouldn’t be able to get them in until the following day. I wasn’t entirely upset about it…less time at the mechanic meant I was free to go home and whip up a pie treat for Pi Day. BECAUSE I HADN’T PLANNED SOMETHING AHEAD OF TIME. It hadn’t made my list or been prepared in advance. In truth, when I was reminded Monday night of Tuesday being Pi(e) Day, I felt like a bit of a blogging failure. What was I doing with my time if not being perfectly prepared with pie? (Aside from fixing a tire and beating myself into a bloody pulp in the process, working, taking care of my dog, buying 8 pounds of butter, etc.) Luckily, the mechanics tire mess-up meant I had extra time I didn’t think I had.

Mini Mixed Berry Balsamic Hand Pies | via Midwest Nice Blog

Meaning now you’ve got a recipe you didn’t think you’d get. Even if it is a day late. Because, even though I managed to make these delicious, easy, flaky, gorgeous, scrumptious, mini mixed berry balsamic hand pies (what a mouthful…literally) yesterday in celebration of Pi Day. And even had time to take pictures afterward too, I spent the rest afternoon delivering them to my friends and taking Edgar for a nice long walk downtown before enjoying a delicious pizza date with my man. And I’m better for it.

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Banana Cream Pie

Have you ever been into a bakery that just has that certain “feel?” That’s light and airy, but not in a minimalist, slightly pretentious way. That feels bright and cheery and smells of the pastries in the oven and has a low, steady hum of happy activity? That’s comforting with big, open windows that let the sunshine in, warming your back as you sit and sip coffee while enjoying a treat. The one where regulars come in and are greeted with a smile and their order ready to go?

Banana Cream Pie | via Midwest Nice Blog

I’ve been to a few of those places. Bittersweet in Chicago, Fraiche (sadly, now closed) in Evanston, and Back In The Day Bakery in Savannah. They’re not only filled with delicious baked goods but also fill me with a sense of wonder, a feeling of “There it is. This is home.”

Banana Cream Pie | via Midwest Nice Blog

If it isn’t obvious after last week’s post and now today’s musings, I’ve got Georgia on my mind, Savannah in particular. I want to go and walk the streets and visit Forsyth Park and spend an afternoon in that bakery that feels like home.

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Apple Pie Milkshake

I love leftovers! Love, love, love them! If the meal was good enough to have once, I’ll certainly eat it again. And again. Plus, leftovers mean I have a quick lunch the next day, or dinner on the run, or both.

So the leftover situation in my fridge and on my counters right now is my sweet spot. I’ve been eating plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole as they were meant to be (covered in gravy, duh). I’m also doctoring them up a bit and making use of the extras in ways that keep me from getting bored – omelets, nachos, shakes.

Yes, shakes! Made with leftover apple pie!!! Or any pie you have laying around. Because making three pies and two cakes for Turkey Day may have been a bit ambitious.

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Bourbon Pecan Pie

Y’all. This. Pie.

Ugh.

Pecan pie is not something I ever ate before moving. French Silk? Yep. Especially if my mom took the trouble to defrost if fresh for us that day. Apple? Only if it was my grandma’s or from the Amish bakery an hour away. Banana Cream? Truly, this may be where my love affair with pie began, thanks to Back In The Day Bakery.

But, you know what they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when in the South, put bacon fat in your piecrust and bourbon in your pecan pie.

bourbon pecan pie5

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Perfect Piecrust

I have a tattoo of a butter label on my forearm. Yes, you read that right. I’m a baker. It makes sense to me. All of my tattoos are baking themed. My right arm will eventually be a sleeve dedicated to baked-goods. (Much to my father’s chagrin.)

Right off the bat though, most people don’t get it. They think it’s a joke, or fake, or a stamp (Idk why tho…). Once I convince them it’s real and explain that I’m a baker the next words out of their mouths are usually, “What’s your favorite thing to bake?”

“Pie.”

Always. Without hesitation.

And it’s largely because of this piecrust. After years of testing and trying (and failing), I’ve finally gotten the ratios down and the method perfected. I’ve added a secret Southern ingredient that makes all the difference, too.

Bacon fat. Yes, you read that right, too. Ba.con.fat. Bacon is bountiful here. It’s in mac ‘n’ cheese, on top of doughnuts; it’s even the namesake of one of my favorite restaurants. It’s also a staple in my fridge. I always have a jar of drippings ready to cook with. And now, bake with.

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