Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Favorite Christmas Dessert.

Is it possible to remember a piece of pie eaten 45 years ago? I think so, I can still remember my grandmother's cheesecake, made and served at Christmas dinner that many years ago.

This was no cream-cheese-with-a-crust pie mind you. This was pie perfection.

My grandmother's ricotta cheese pie was a thing of beauty. Before a knife dented its tender surface it displayed a warm brown-white-yellow patina. The light brown flour pie crust on the side stopped at the cheese top. There was no lip of crust. It was unadorned, otherwise; no fruit or other superfluous decoration. Its place was always at the end of the table, grand-dessert that it was, a kind of diva greeting the diner at the very end as if to say, "I follow no other." There was only one pie. You had better get a slice early.

When you bit into into it you sensed two textures, a thin pie crust with a little crunch and then the ricotta cheese filling which is like the cheese itself but mellowed and sweetened somehow by the cooking. It was firm, not at all runny, and not overly gelatinous. You could see the distinct ricotta texture.

The taste was barely sweet, like the first taste of some beers just hinting at sweetness, with a tiny taste of vanilla, a little more of egg, and the almost nutty flavor of ricotta cheese. Simple and perfect. It was served at room temperature, somehow appropriately.

I look forward to it at this time of year, even knowing that the cheese cake is no longer at the head of the dessert table, but the memory is there, saying maybe that some good things, especially during the Christmas season, can be enjoyed a long time in their remembrance and are better left that way.

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