I walk into a cooking store in New York, a big one. I won’t tell you the name. Can’t blow my contact’s cover, we’ll call it Wm S. I casually walk over to a woman working in the baking section. I’ll call her Cupcake – what? It’s better than Muffin Top. “Do you know what I mean by a raised pie?” I ask her.
She eyes me carefully before answering. Maybe it’s the flour under my fingernails, but she decides to trust me. “Yes, yes I do.”
I try to restrain my excitement. “Do you have a raised pie mould?” I ask her in low tones.
She glares at me, indicating with her eyebrows, that I must wait for her supervisor to pass before she answers. “No, I don’t have one.” I’m crushed. If I can’t get one in New York . . . Cupcake draws me into a corner stacked with grape peelers and contact lens for potatoes. “You’re going to have to go to a real cooking store.” Silence, Cupcake is hard nut to crack.
I won’t beg, but I might whine. “Do you know of such a store?” She just got the name out when there was a terrible bang. Someone had dropped a $500 digital mango sexer. All hell broke loose. I made my escape.
As I paid for my raised pie mould, I said to the cashier, “I knew if I couldn’t get this in New York, I couldn’t get it.” She smiled and said “If you can’t get it at ---- you can’t get it.”
The raised pie is perfect picnic food, a great way to repackage left over meat, and only moderately dangerous to prepare despite the story above. It requires hot water pastry, which needs to be worked quickly. Line your mould with pastry and fill it with your mixture of meat cut in small pieces, breadcrumbs, and seasonings; depending on the meat involved sometimes nuts are added, such as pistachio and in a traditional game pie you often see a hard boiled egg placed at the centre.
On goes the top, make a small hole and glaze it with an egg beaten with cream. Bake for 90 minutes at 350. Tent the top with foil if it is browning too much. After 90 minutes, remove the sides of the pie mould, apply the glaze to the sides and bake for another 30 minutes. Allow the pie to cool for about 3 hours. Put the sides of the mould back on. Take a cup of stock appropriate to your meat and two teaspoons of gelatin, soften the gelatin in a few tablespoons of stock in a saucepan, then add the rest of the stock and cook over a low heat until it is syrupy. Put a funnel in the hole in the top of the pie and slowly add the gelatin stock mixture. Chill the pie over night. Cut in slices and serve with chutney, pickles and a salad.
The pie in the header picture is the remainder of a ham the size of a Volkswagen. It’s my best after multiple tries. I am Madam Mowbray and this is my story.
One of the first books I remember reading was a collection called Tales to Tremble By. It included Ambrose Bierce’s Middle Toe of the Right Foot, which I still recall vividly. Later on I trembled to Sardonicus by Ray Russell, W.W. Jacob’s the Monkey’s Paw, Bram Stoker’s Dracula of course, and the master M.R. James. Fear is fun when you are young.
That was then. Now I am bored by the eerie face at the window. The monster under the bed is made of dust and the horrible thing in the closet is a dress I’m too old for now. I just finished Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, a genuinely spooky tale. I ask myself, why does it work? I think it’s because, even though it is set in the early part of the last century, it puts its narrator in a very contemporary state: surrounded by people who mean him no harm, but who leave him to face the central menace alone.
We live in an era of hyper communication, but when I sit on the streetcar listening to people on their cell phones naming the stops we’ve just passed, I can't help feeling a lot of it is the contemporary equivalent of whistling past the graveyard. In 2010 the horror is in the loneliness.