Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Year's Worth of Pie in One Weekend

Last weekend was the annual pie festival, and it's a darned good thing that it only happens once a year. Within the space of one weekend, you can eat enough pie to last you an entire twelve months. While there are various events, such as bake-offs, pie eating contests, a make-your-own-pie booth for the kiddies, and even a Pie King, the crowning jewel is the Endless Pie Buffet. And let me assure you, it is indeed endless...for $8, you are turned loose to consume all of the crusty, creamy, and/or fruity delights that your belly can hold.

In case you don't believe me, here's a pic of me with the Pie King:

You can attend the other events without doing the buffet, but that is the piece de resistance of the event. And if you get any ideas about crashing, there are ominous black-shirted Pie Police who protect the sanctity of the gorge-fest.

Although I've attended the festival before, this was my first year volunteering. I was hoping to work with a friend on the early shift, but I ended up worked from 3 to 7 p.m. at the pie buffet. My husband dropped me off so I wouldn't take up a precious parking spot (parking in downtown Celebration is even more endangered than the Florida panther). There was so much traffic heading downtown that I jumped out of Crush (our NEV) a block away and still made it to the pie fest area before he did.

As I approached the check-in area, dark, ominous clouds rolled in as if on cue. I unfurled my umbrella, which I'd brought for just such an emergency, and hustled a bit more quickly towards the shelter of the check-in canopy. All around me, people were scattered under overhangs and other sheltered areas as we were pelted with a typical Florida afternoon thunderstorm. Thankfully, like most of those storms, in only lasted for a few drenching minutes and then rolled out just as abruptly as it had arrived. It dropped just enough rain to soak everyone to the skin.

I had been issued my official Crisco blue volunteer t-shirt, so I hustled off to the Town Hall area to find my booth. I had been assigned to work with Bonert's Slice of Pie. My duties consisted mainly of replenishing the stock as needed and answering any questions. The most frequent, of course, was "What kind of pie is that?", and the answer was an ongoing challenge since we kept swapping out flavors. We also had to do a massive restocking, as the downpour had infiltrated some of the plastic pie containers, turning the crusts soggy. Quickly, we pitched those pieces and replaced with with pristine pies.

Bonert's sells a wide variety of pies...everything from conventional apple to more exotic varieties such as peach/pineapple empanadas. I was proudly able to inform our visitors that the company had won 16 blue ribbons in the bake-off.

The Bonert's booth turned out to be a perfect location, as it was right in front of Town Hall (with non-porta-potty bathrooms for volunteers) and right across from the bottled water station. On a day when the temperature is flirting in the 90s, it's good to be close to places where you can put lots of water in and then let it out.

Volunteers receive a free ticket to the buffet, and I had resolved to resist temptation on Saturday and return on Sunday to enjoy my reward. That lasted for a couple of hours, but then I succumbed to temptation. As I munched on a slice of award-winning cherry streusel, I told myself that it was my duty. After all, how could I recommend it to our visitors in good conscience unless I had taste-tested it myself?

I also had to indulge in a pie of French Silk from the nearby Baker's Square booth. That probably means nothing to Floridians, but Bakers Square is a chain that I grew up with in Illinois (it was originally known as Poppin Fresh). They make the best, most godly French Silk pie in the known universe, with a recipe stolen from the kitchens of Heaven. It's one of the few food items that I truly miss here in Florida. The photo doesn't do it justice:

French Silk isn't built to withstand the opressive heat; I only made it about halfway through my slice before the rest had disintigrated into a sloppy, melted mess. But oh, it tasted sooooo good! It almost made me homesick for Illinois...almost, but not quite.

The time raced by quickly, and soon it was nearly 7. I knew I would have to hustle, since my husband and I had tickets to see "Fiddler on the Roof," as presented by the Celebration Players, at 8. After four hours in the unrelenting Florida sun, I had to have a shower or I would likely clear out our whole section of the theater.

Hubby pulled up right on the dot, and I hopped into Crush along with a little stash. My husband adores strawberry rhubarb, so I brought some home for him (and some pumpkin for me).

I leaped into the shower for a quick body cleansing, and then we dashed off to Celebration High School for the play. We had excellent seats (second row center) and were duly impressed with the high-energy performance. There is a lot of talent in the Celebration area, and our community theater groups are a great medium for spot-lighting it. The casting was excellent, and I was quite impressed that the singing remained strong throughout. "Fiddler" is a three-hour, song-intensive show, but the actors showed no sign of fatigue even as the clock approached 11 p.m. The sets were minimalist, but through the artful story-telling I could easily imagine the little town of Anatevka onstage.

"Fiddler" has always been one of my favorite shows, dating back to my early childhood. When I was six, I got it into my head that I wanted to see it. I have no clue where I had heard about it or what it was even about. At six, I was more concerned with dolls and building blocks than the plight of Russian Jews on the eve of the revolution. But I kept insisting that I wanted to see it; fortunately, the movie version was released shortly thereafter, so I finally got my wish.

I didn't understand all the nuances of the story, although my mother tried to explain them in ways a young child could understand. At the time, I was still innocent enough to be puzzled about why some people would hate others, and even drive them out of their homes, simply because of their religion. Mostly, I focused on the dancing and singing; my mother bought me a soundtrack album, and soon I knew all the music by heart.

Since that time, I've seen the movie countless times and have also seen a dinner theater production of the play. In comparison, I'm proud to say that Celebration's version definitely held its own against the professionals.

After the play, we went to Perkins for a very late dinner. As we sat at our booth, awaiting our food, I suddenly had a flashback. Arrgh! Post Traumatic Stress Disorder! My husband quickly figured out the ad for bakery-fresh Perkins pies on the table. Normally I loved their baked goods, but after a day of handing out pie slices (and imbibing myself), I wasn't ready to be confronted with any more pie.

The next day, I was toying with the idea of not returning to the buffet. Even though I had a complimentary pass, I had reached my saition level the day before. After church, we headed out to our favorite Indian buffet, so by the time we were done with that, I wasn't in the mood for any more food.

But as the afternoon wore on, the idea of another slice (or two...or three) was sounding more and more tempting. Pie for dinner would be a nice counterpoint to the spicy curry lunch. Our friends, who had eaten at the Indian buffet with us, convinced us through a bit of arm twisting. Thus, I soon found myself downtown again, flitting among the tables laden with sugary delights. I had some sugar cream pie and of course another slice of French Silk, and I commendeered half of my husband's slice of peanut butter pie. Here is the impressive aftermath of our pie binge:

Okay, okay, so maybe we didn't really eat all of that, but you've got to admit that it makes an impressive picture. And to top off the day, the Bonert's rep. at the booth where I had worked the previous day gifted me with a company t-shirt. I lorded it over my friend, who had worked at the booth next door and who hadn't been gifted with anything. She marched over to her former "employer" and returned with a tote bag, and we spent some time bickering over whose free premium was superior.

But alas, the Pie Festival was ending for another year. Slowly we dragged our curry- and pie-filled bodies back to Crush for the drive home (in restrospect, we should have walked as we could have used the enforced exercise). It had been a fun time, but I knew that I wouldn't be wanted a slice of pie any time soon. I figure I should be ready in about twelve months...right around the time that the endless pie buffet rolls into town once again.

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Peedmai Pantz said...

A tote bag is so much better than a crummy old company t-shirt.

Two4Disney said...

We were condo shopping in Celebration on Saturday and quickly realized that a downtown condo without a reserved parking spot would be a bad idea. Your comment about the parking confirmed it. :) Sorry we missed you at the festival.

Sharon & Andrew Wood said...

Sooo these are all the pies we heard sooo much about. It was great to finally meeting you on our recent visit to Celebration. Thank you for your hospitality and kindness. Maybe someday you could visit us in Australia! Now...that would make a great blog and one hell of an adventure! Take care & we'd love to keep in touch. Photos will follow as promised.