Morgan Roberts dishes on the simple pleasure of baking and indulging in key lime pie.
I pull the pie out of the oven, making sure the top is sufficiently browned. The meringue, fastidiously whipped from chicken eggs gathered from my backyard that morning, is being stubborn as all hell. Protein structure in fresh eggs holds fast but with enough beating, you can break it — like most things, I suppose. I feel a pinch of guilt as the whites turn opaque, and peaks begin to form. But I also feel triumphant.
Handmade key-lime pudding settles between that marshmallowy meringue and a discounted, pre-baked pie crust in cheap aluminum. Life requires balance, or so I’m told.
All three of my children come rushing into the kitchen, as if the pie air had wafted into the dining room, seducing them out of the dinners I had just placed on the table. That’s a lie. They were all eating on the coffee table in the living room as they watched television. I ran out of bowls, and my oldest daughter ate from Tupperware.
“Mommy made pie!” My youngest yells, jumping up and down.
“My favorite! Key lime!” My son calls, fist pumping above his head.
“Can we have some now?” My oldest asks, licking her lips, which I notice are chapped.
“No,” I say.
“Huh?” They all question with furrowed brows, my son’s hands slowly lowering to his sides.
“No. You can’t have this pie. This pie is for me and Daddy,” I say.
“Mom. You cannot be serious. You and Daddy can’t eat an entire pie,” Soleil says.
“Watch us,” I say.
They’re all mad at me. What kind of mother bakes a pie, takes it out of the oven in front of her children, and then doesn’t allow them to have any? I sweep any feelings of guilt aside. You can have this one thing, Morgan. It’s okay. It’s just a pie.
The kids are put to bed, a tad disgruntled, but I think they will forgive me in time. I read them bedtime stories, give them kisses, and answer the outpouring of last-second questions while my fingers coerce a few more ounces of patience from my temples. My husband is already downstairs. He’s always first downstairs.
As I make my way to the kitchen, I remember the pie. Something bubbles in my stomach — what is that feeling? I haven’t felt it in so long. It’s giddiness. That’s what it is. I hop on the balls of my feet, proudly still petite after three pregnancies. I do a little dance, wiggling my hips, not so petite, but they never were.
My husband lifts a brow at my impromptu kitchen dance. He smiles, and I laugh.
“You’re blushing,” he says. “When do you blush anymore?”
I don’t do a lot of things anymore.
We wait until the last footsteps have quieted upstairs and make our way to the living room, with me carrying the pie, as I only would trust it with myself. Some things could not be forgiven; our marriage couldn’t handle a mistake as grave as dropping my pie.
My pie. I unceremoniously push aside the kids’ dishes they neglected to throw in the sink. A fork falls on the rug, a piece of spaghetti tangled in its prongs. I stare at it for a moment and then look away.
I place the pie on the coffee table while he puts on a movie. It’s Wonder Woman. I smile. One might think by buying this movie and surprising me with it, he is making a statement about how strong women are and, therefore, how strong I am. He could be telling me how much he appreciates me — how I am his Wonder Woman. But I know better.
I have a type when it comes to the kind of women to whom I am attracted. And it just so happens I like women who are tall and dark, naturally pretty with strong features. He may not have a woman-power agenda, but he will sit next to me as I eat copious amounts of pie and fantasize about a woman, about something I sometimes yearn for that he cannot fulfill. I know I shouldn’t feel guilty over something I cannot control. He knows this, and he accepts you, I remind myself.
My husband and I met when I was 16 years old, when all I had was a beeper, and when our time together was only interrupted by an alarm clock to warn us of my impeding curfew. I loathed that blasted thing. And now our life has turned into interruptions and frustrations, of stubborn eggs and children’s questions and cheap pie crusts because we cannot afford the name-brand ones.
Tonight, however, we wouldn’t worry about calories or diets or sugar levels or all the crap you have to worry about when you are in your 30s and for him, your 40s. We wouldn’t talk about money or to-do lists or kids. We would ignore the fork on the floor and not argue about who has to feed the chickens tomorrow.
I take two dinner-sized plates and cut the pie. The meringue sticks to the knife, and the still-warm filling oozes. I make a mess, and my beautiful pie crumbles.
“It’s okay, Morgan,” he says as I grumble. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like. I’m sure it will taste great.”
I tilt the pan and scoop half of the pie onto his plate and the other half onto mine — gluttony at its finest. And I don’t care. I curl my toes under the blanket he pulls from the floor and shimmy myself down a few inches. Giddiness returns as I take my first bite, ensuring I have an equal amount of meringue, key lime, and crust. I close my eyes and bite.
It’s sweet and tangy and crunchy. It reminds me of the pie we ate on Key West for my 23rd birthday. We drove four hours from our little apartment in Miami that morning and made love on a beach and swam in the ocean and talked and walked through the town and ate pie, just to drive back to our apartment that night. Later that year, we found out I was pregnant.
I balance my plate on my lap and take his hand, which he lets me hold, even though he has to pause eating his pie. He gives it a squeeze and goes back to eating. And so do I.
I look at him out of the corner of my eye. He’s maybe 30 pounds heavier than he used to be, with scruffy hair around his upper lip and chin, but he is undeniably handsome nonetheless. I wonder if he views me like stubborn eggs or squishy pudding or broken crust. I wonder if I still taste great, no matter what I look like.
My belly fills, and I have to adjust my underwear as the band slips into the valley of my C-section scar. I wonder if that dull ache and prickling numbness will ever go away. It was worth it, I remind myself. But perhaps that also means I can have my pie and eat it, too, from time to time.
We finish the entire pie. And I don’t feel guilty.