I make this pie once a year, birthday dessert for a husband who doesn't like cake. I know he likes peanut butter pie, although mine doesn't compare to his favorite and that's ok because no one's does and that baker doesn't share her recipe. So I make mine, chiffon and lightness to the denser creaminess of that one. But this is my mother's recipe, fading, stained and creased and once a year I make it and remember childhood.
Pounding the pretzels was always my job, after we rubbed the extra salt off of them. Oh how I hated the rubbing, coarseness of salt scratching my hands as we rubbed until mom said they were ok, and then pounded in the clean breadbags until she pronounced them fine enough. And meanwhile my mother's hands cooked and stirred the filling, then cooled it just long enough to make the air and the dense mix together in smooth perfection and I ALWAYS cool mine too long and the blending is uneven. But it's the taste that matters.
And so I mix the sugar and the egg and milk and stir while two full days of driving away my mother's hands are resting in a hospital bed, lungs working away at breathing so hard. One week ago all was fine, and the heart catheterization was sure to show nothing wrong, she said. And then there was the 100% blockage in one artery and the 60% in another and three days later the double bypass surgery. I talked to her two days ago, and words came in starts and stops as air ran out of lungs not full enough.
Remove the mixture from the heat, add peanut butter and stir. Chill. Waiting for that just right temperature because I WILL get it right this time. How many times did I not get it right with my mother? Angry words and me wondering what I did wrong, why I couldn't be loved just the way I was and maybe why couldn't I love her just the way she was? Trying to figure out just the right balance of me and her, pleasing and being. And I always got it wrong, until my heart set up too hard to let the softness blend in.
Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl. Real cream, not the Cool Whip in the recipe that my mom always used. I long for the authentic, tasting reality traceable to its roots, not the reliable, but chemical tasting product that would be so much simpler to use. So much richness, the work doesn't seem like any effort to make it. Sweeten it just the way I want it. I am my mother's daughter, I can trace it through the taste back to her homemade granola and her fresh baked bread and all the times she said that homemade was better (but still she used that Cool Whip).
Whip the egg-whites, the sugar, add the peanut butter mix, once more cooled too thick. Fold it gently with the whipped topping until all is mixed together, and there are lumps but isn't it the final taste that matters? Pour it into the pie crust and then refrigerate, waiting for family to devour its sweetness and declare it good. And isn't it all good, this love we make for others?
(Note: My mom is home from the hospital now and recovering well.)