While living in Ireland during my get-drunk-and-travel-and-hookup post-college year, I snagged job at a little café called Super Latte. It was the Irish version of an American coffee shop, serving lattes, cappuccinos, and “American” coffee, which essentially just means bean water. My workmates consisted mostly of other foreigners: a Swede, a Belgian, a few Spaniards, an Italian, and lots of Americans.
One of these Americans was Dexter. Dex was 6’4, super skinny, and kind of reminded me of Woody from Toy Story. He was from New Mexico, sounded like a cowboy, and was perpetually in a good mood even when we were cleaning. Not to mention, he was one of the smartest people I had ever met. Once, when we were listening to that song “War,” he even changed the lyrics singing out:
“War, what is it good for?
Except regenerating the economy
And getting us out of the Depression!”
I had never thought of it that way.
It was Thanksgiving, and as American expats do, we (we being all my American friends) decided to have a Thanksgiving dinner. Being the social butterfly that I was, I was invited to two dinners. One with my coworkers — many of whom had never experienced the delights of an American Thanksgiving — and another with my friend Sharon and her American roommates. As a card-carrying American, I knew it was my duty to represent. So I decided to make mocha pecan pie. One for each party.
I may not be as good of a cook as my mom (I blame that on my mom and her desire to parent as little as humanly possible), but I think I’m decent. I have in fact made many delicious things before, including the aforementioned mocha pecan pie. Not only was it supremely delicious in its previous incarnations, but I also had people salivating for more and begging me for the recipe. Naturally, I wanted to make the pie for our Thanksgiving, thereby allowing everyone to bask in the glory of my baking skills.
There was only one problem: My recipe book was at my parent’s house in storage. I didn’t trust myself enough to wing it. I am strictly a recipe-only kind of girl. Any sort of winging it ends up with me making burned cookies, spicy mac n’ cheese that burns everyone’s mouth, or a frittata that is missing the cheese. My dog Sparky had even rejected some of my cooking fails. You know it’s bad when a dog doesn’t even want your burnt cookie.
Nonetheless, in spite of all my obvious handicaps, I was determined to make this pie. I am the kind of person that if I were blind, I’d probably insist on driving. Besides, a mocha pecan pie is decidedly easier to make than cookies. So I reasoned I could figure it out on the fly this one time. As I had no friends growing up, I had logged copious hours watching the Food Network. Surely this knowledge would come in handy. A little chocolate, a little coffee, throw in some pecans and syrup, et voila! This is what I said to myself.
But as Thanksgiving approached, I began to feel nervous. If this pie turned out to be trash, I would not only humiliate myself but bring shame upon my country. I already had enough of these European assholes saying I didn’t “look American.” Should I just buy a pie and say I made it? Normally I would never do such a thing, but the pressure was beginning to get to me. I imagine it’s what Olympic athletes feel when representing their country on the world stage. MUST WIN.
A s pies are particularly American, trying to find a bakery that specifically sold pecan pies in Ireland was no easy feat. I went from one bakery to the next looking for a damned pecan pie until I finally stumbled upon a little out-of-the-way bakery that specialized in American treats like brownies, cookies, and the aforementioned pie.
“I’d like two pecan pies!” I said excitedly.
“Great that will be $60,” she responded.
Um excuse me? Fuck to the off. At that rate, there ought to be crack in the pie. I was a broke backpacker who survived by taking flasks to bars and getting other people to buy me food. I was one step above a homeless person. I didn’t have enough money for two pies! I barely had enough for one. I thought a pie would cost $10-15 at most.
I didn’t know what to do. I could only afford one pie, but I had two parties to go to. I stood there fidgeting while the woman at the counter waited for me to make a decision. I finally decided I would buy one pie for the party with my coworkers. They were mostly non-Americans, so I wanted to impress them. For Sharon’s party, I would attempt to make the pie. And I would tell both parties I made this wonderfully American dessert from scratch.
To say that making this pie was a shitshow would be an understatement. I basically threw all the ingredients in a bowl by eyeballing them and dumped them in a pie crust. When it came out of the oven, I knew it was wrong. Very wrong. It looked like a four-year-old made it. It was crackly and weird-looking on top. I stuck a knife in so I could taste the tiniest sliver. I choked down a dry, bland morsel wondering WTF I had been thinking. It tasted like cardboard.
I don’t even know how a pecan pie ends up dry, when it’s basically made of syrup. It was disgusting, but I had no choice. Thanksgiving at both places was a potluck and it was my job to bring the dessert. I knew it was shitty, but Sharon was getting my crappy busted pecan pie.
I figured I was all good until Sharon decided to visit me at work and invite Dex to her Thanksgiving party.
“I’d love to go!” he replied excitedly in his southwestern twang. F-U-C-K. Now Dex would potentially be in on my pie shenanigans. Why did Sharon have to be so damn friendly?
Then again, Dex was as rough-and-tumble as they come. The only detail I had ever seen him take note of is my high heels and short skirts. My hair, not so much. So I could only pray that he was obtuse enough not to notice the obviously different pies.
The big night arrived, and Dex showed up at my apartment to walk me over to Sharon’s house, pies in hand. I’d say my palms were sweating, but they weren’t. How the fuck do palms sweat? I was seriously nervous though. We strolled over to Sharon’s house chit-chatting, with me occasionally asking Dex to speak louder or vice versa. As he’s 6'4 and I’m 5'1, so sometimes when we would be speaking to each other, we wouldn’t be able to hear because we were so far apart.
“So what did you make?” Dex asked.
“Pecan pie,” I responded nervously.
“Aww man just like home! I can’t wait to dig in.”
I gulped and changed the subject.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Sharon’s apartment, but when up it came time for dessert I decided I needed to take action. I could not let Dex see or eat the pie.
“So I left the pie in the fridge for you guys, but Dex and I should really leave since we have that other party go to.”
“Hell no, I want some pie!” Dex shouted. Dex could never get excited about something without shouting. It didn’t matter if he was talking about war, puppies, or taking a shit. He was the very embodiment of a loud (though endearing) American.
“Yeah I want to try some of it while you’re here,” Sharon responded.
I could not understand what the fuck was wrong with these people. It’s just a fucking pie! I thought irritably. I pulled out the shitty pie so Sharon wouldn’t accidentally take out the good one. Even whipped cream couldn’t save this disaster. Thankfully her four other roommates were all American and someone else had pumpkin pie so it wasn’t like they were depending on my pie for dessert.
“It’s good,” Misty, one of the roommates, said politely. I knew she was lying.
“It’s not bad,” Dex said with a look of bewilderment on his face.
“Dex, we have to go to the other party,” hoping he wouldn’t eat too much of it.
I finally managed to convince Dex to leave. Fast-forward to dinner number two. When it came time for dessert, I once again took out my pie. It looked glorious. Like a vision sent from heaven. The top was a rich, moist brown glistening with cute little pecans floating in the goo. I was salivating just looking at my imaginary hard work.
“Wow that’s beautiful!” Aisling exclaimed. “Did you make it?”
I could have made this pie if I had the right recipe. So I didn’t feel so bad for the lie I was about to tell.
“Yep I made it!”
Everyone started to dig in. I hoped Dex would be so full from the last round of desserts he would ignore this pie. No such luck.
“Wow, this is a delicious pie, huh?” Dex said sidling up to me with a piece of pie and a grin on his face.
Defeated, I felt like a bank robber who had been on the run and finally got caught. I was like El Chapo, but cuter and thinner. I finally gave up. Dex knew I was a pie-making fraud. But I still couldn’t admit to it.
“I know right?” I asked while taking a swig of my vodka tonic. “I’m pretty good at making pie. So you like it?”
“I’d like any pie you made,” he replied.
I giggled. We never spoke of the Great Pie Incident again. And I’m sure Aisling realized I was American through and through.
 OK, she didn’t really say that. She told me how much it would be in Irish pounds , but I can’t remember how much that was. All I know is that it was about $60 USD and it way too much.