Tuesday, June 24, 2008

From the archives: May 1, 2002


Japan is not commonly known around the world as the chronically cherry-pieless nation that it is, though it isn't really an easy secret to hide, if you know where to look. Go down any country road; take any turning; and sooner or later you will come upon a breathtaking vista, or a splendid and intriguing national treasure, but it will definitely not be a pie. Let alone a cherry pie. Not a wedge, not a sliver, not a crust, not a crumb. Quaint villages; unique temples; smiling people, lovely seacoasts; graceful mountains; famous local rice crackers; but cherry pie? [cue mad laughter of demented foreigners] I don't even have a decent picture of a piece of cherry pie. And though I've never heard it mentioned in polite company, this historic broad-spectrum pielessness could go a long way toward explaining Japan's surprising dearth of Nobel prizes. Lack of cherry pie will do that to a country.

Yes, incredible as it may sound, it is true: no excellent cherry pie, no adequate cherry pie, not even tolerably counterfeit cherry pie, like I used to find in just about any American grocery store back in the days when I wouldn't have lived as long as I'll live now because I came to Japan, where, after extra-long decades of life-extending tofu and fermented soybeans and seaweed, and careful though increasingly delirious consideration, I have come to the conclusion that genuine home-made cherry pie must be what they eat in heaven, where there are all kinds of pies, and cakes, and cookies, too. Real cakes; real chocolate cakes; devil's food cakes, even. And chocolate chip cookies, that proudly and justly bear that name.

In Japan, after some tofu and broiled fish, for dessert there is perhaps bean paste, inside or outside some white or pink or maybe (whoopee!) green rice paste, or possibly rice crackers with seaweed, maybe an apple slice (be still, my heart!), and people live a few years longer, though it is not clear to me exactly why they would want to do so under such circumstances. It couldn't be for more dessert. And despite the lingering sense that one is doing the right thing dietarily, there is another sense that lingers a lot more, in fact drapes itself permanently over the psychography: the sense that as the years pass, one is missing out completely on those essential aspects of life that are manifested most congenially in cherry pie.

I'm sure that mental fugues like the aforegoing are common on both sides of the Pacific; no doubt a Japanese expat in the US, after twenty straight years of home-made, golden-crusted cherry pie, dreams longingly of tofu and broiled fish chased down by bean paste or rice crackers and seaweed, and more power to him, may he one day live long in his pieless homeland. But chronic cherry pie deficiency is a serious matter for a body that has been forged, in great part, of home-made cherry pie.

Sadly, though, I have begun to acknowledge to myself that despite the longer and dietarily minimalist life I am now living, I may never again partake of cherry pie, not even if I return to my native land, which is itself undergoing oriental transformations resulting from ever more radically healthy lifestyle extremes focusing on a longer life in terms of mere time, time filled with tofu and fermented soybeans, aggravated by a febrile kind of righteousness accompanying general proscriptions of pie and other manifestations of heaven on earth, like a la mode; but I can dream, and I dream that when at last, after my greatly extended, tofu-full, cherry-pie-deficient life I arrive at the heavenly gates, and God of course asks me first thing how long it's been since I had any cherry pie, and I say casually "Oh, I guess it must be at least forty or fifty years now, ma'am," God'll say with tears in her eyes, "MY GOD!! Peter, forget about whatever petty wrongs this poor fellow may have committed, and get those gates open AT ONCE; take this sufferer express to the BIG table and seat him right next to me; give him anything he wants, forever, and start him off with a real taste of heaven: our best home-made cherry pie!!" Some posthumous folks might prefer rice crackers and seaweed, but that would have to be somewhere other than heaven; and what then would be the point in dying?


David said...

Do they have Anna Miller's restaurants in your part of the country?

Okay, okay, I know, but if you haven't had the real thing for a long time, and you're not in an overly discriminating mood, the pie there is not bad.

Maggie said...

...and you forgot to mention whipped cream. I deleriously filled myself to the brim with Chantilly in Paris on Chocolate Mousse. Tonight I am going to wallow in whipped cream in a cream puff at a local Jewish deli.

There is no life without whipped cream. Forgive me for saying so, but it is far more important to the scheme of things than cherry pie.

Mary Lou said...

and you mean to tell me that you did not even take one little itty bite of cherry pie?

(but you have WONDERFUL sushi in Japan!)

Bob Brady said...

Still haven't found cherry pie, though I did have some real - and therefore excellent - NY cheesecake and a bit of substandard (in re the Everestian summits of 40-50 years ago) lemon meringue pie, so am still focused on the quixotic cherry pie objective, somewhat compensated by regular attainments of Ben&Jerry's actual chocolate, B- jelly donuts and, of all surprises, traditional ginger snaps! The quest goes on...