“Promises are pie crust” – easily made, easily broken.
Obama has promised he will remove “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and LGBT people will be able to serve openly in the military; he has also promised he will have the Defense of Marriage Act repealed, which will mean that a same-sex couple who live in a state where they are legally banned from marrying, can go to a state in which they can marry, get married, return home, and their home state will be legally required to recognise their marriage as valid.
Both are huge legal steps towards legal equality for LGBT people in the US. But all we know for sure about Obama’s Presidency is that today, Rick Warren will give the invocation prayer at his inauguration.
When Barack Obama was born, his parents could not be legally wed in multiple states in the US. The last state to take the laws against his parents’ being married off the books was Alabama, in 2000. Young Barack Obama was not quite 6 years old before a Supreme Court decision anti-democratically overturned the legislation against the legal marriage of Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr. The same kind of Christians who today oppose same-sex marriage, back then opposed miscegenation or interracial marriage, and in the same terms: it was against God’s will, they said, to give mixed-race couples the legal right to marry: it was against God’s will for them to have children.
Would Barack Obama invite a preacher who had, a few weeks ago, told him that his parents were morally the same as child or animal molesters – that for his mom and dad to marry legally was on the same kind of moral plane as paedophilia and bestiality? If he would not, why does he feel it’s Okay to invite Rick Warren?
Pie crust is easy to make. The best kind is short-crust pastry. For this, you need:
1. Cold hands. If your hands are not naturally cold (cold hands, warm heart) hold them under the cold-water tap for a minute or so before you start rubbing the fat into the flour.
2. Cold water. Cold as you can get it without it actually freezing over.
3. Fat. You can use butter or margarine. Butter has a lovely flavour in itself, of course, but really, for a pie with a flavoursome filling, margarine will do. If you use a fat that is hard in the fridge, it needs to be at room temperature – that is, soft to the touch – when you use it in pastry. This is, in fact, the best reason for using a soft margarine if you just want pastry right now – it won’t be the best, but it’ll be fine. Non-vegetarians tell me that lard is good.
4. Flour. In principle, you want a low-gluten flour – a “soft” flour in bakers’ parlance. This is because a high-gluten flour, or “strong” flour, will make you pastry that’s very hard and stiff. But if you are a dab hand with the rolling pin and can roll your pastry out very thin, I personally think that the stiff pastry that results from a high-gluten flour can be very nice – but you do need to plan on using it for a thin, thin crust.
For short-crust pastry, if you are making a batch with four ounces of flour, you want two ounces of fat. Half the weight of fat to flour.
With cold hands, rub the fat into the flour to make crumbs. Do so gently and quickly. Don’t over-rub. There are all sorts of techniques advised, like using a knife to cut the fat into the flour until it is evenly distributed, but the reason for all these rules is simply: You don’t want the fat to melt. You want the grains of flour to be englobed in fat that is still fat, not oil. So: cold hands, don’t rub too hard, if you’re deft with a knife use a knife as much as possible, keep your hands cold…
Mix the crumbs with cold cold cold water. Just enough to draw the crumbs together into a ball of pastry-dough. Not too much.
Wrap the pastry-dough in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or up to two days. (Seriously; if it’s wrapped up, it’ll be fine in the fridge for a couple of days.) If the pastry’s been in the fridge for more than 30 minutes, make sure it’s at room temperature before you start rolling it out, or it’ll crack.
If you’re making a pie, divide the pastry into two rounds. It would be otiose to point out that you will want the round for the bottom crust to be larger than the round for the top crust: about a third larger. Either you are the kind of person who thinks of these things before you start rolling out the pastry, or you are not. Flour a cold surface, flour the rolling-pin (I picked up a marble rolling-pin in a second-hand shop for peanuts, years ago: it makes great pastry because it’s cold) and roll your pastry out. Keep dusting the pastry and the rolling-pin with flour if it seems to be sticking to the pin. Line the tin you are using with the first round of pastry, fill it with beans, and blind-bake it in the oven for a few minutes to make it crisp.
Roll out your second round of pastry. Fill the pie with your filling. Apple pie is the best. Cover with the pastry. Trim off the edges. Press holes in the top with a fork (or cut with a very sharp knife). Do fancy things with the trimmings like making shapes of leaves or apples if you like, but you’ll make me feel inadequate – I usually just bake the trimmings in the oven spread with mustard and cheese for instant cheese straws, yum. I am not artistic.
Bake your pie in the oven. You will find that the pie crust is like promises: easily made, easily broken.
—Update, 2nd May 2009—
Sometimes, I really hate being right when I’m cynical.