On Holy Saturday he wore a mopine…a dishcloth tucked in his belt while he scurried about the kitchen on an Easter pilgrimage; cooking pastiera, the traditional Easter rice pie.
Dad found his recipe years before and wrote it on a 3×5 card as if he had invented it. It became his Easter contribution, his signature dish.
His hands and shirt were covered in flour. Pans cluttered the kitchen. Egg shells were stacked in the sink. The smell of baking bounced from the kitchen walls and ceiling.
“Ummm. Great, Pete. The best.” He smiled as his chest expanded.
As the years passed, the pies got better, so he made more, distributing them to friends and relatives, much as a supplier might deliver a specialty product. He was convinced that if he did not make pastiera, Easter would be a flop.
Dad’s pastiera remained consistently perfect; until the year of the overcooked pies.
We arrived on Easter morning to a smell like burned toast that blended into the pie, like a stale log the day after the fire. “I think I burned them.”
He knew he did but could not bring himself to the truth. His dejection was palpable, his disappointment great. “Bad, huh?”
No one had the heart to tell him.” No, not bad, not that bad, Pete.” “Not your best, but still good, Dad.” “Great. Keep ‘em comin’.” “We’ll be back next year.” “Can I have one to take home?”
It took him a while to recover, but optimist that he was, he did.
The following year he was back in his kitchen; his mopine tucked into his belt, the stained recipe card propped on the counter, pans and dishes everywhere.
The smell of toast was replaced by the familiar smell of rice and eggs. It was a great comeback. The pies were good. They were moist and rich…crammed with rice and bits of orange and lemon peel that crunched softly to a gentle bite.
The taste of citrus was married to the taste of egg and rice. I took a second piece.
“Have you tried Pete’s? They’re great, the best.” He smiled.
“I burned it last year. Remember?”