Julia Child was famous not only for her French Chefery, but also for having one of the great marriages of the 20th century. The marriage of “Pulia,” as they called themselves, was so happy we tend to assume that Paul Child and Julia McWilliams were naturally a great match; they weren’t. He was an East Coast autodidact and intellectual, a brooding photographer and painter who tended toward depression and hypochondria; she was a self-described “California hayseed,” a mediocre student whose private motto at Smith was “less learning, more moonshine,” who grabbed her emotions with both hands, shook out everything from them she could possibly feel — she laughed, raved and cried a lot — then dumped them by the side of the road and sped off to the next thing.
What, then, was the secret to their nearly fifty years of happiness?
“If we could just have the kitchen and the bedroom, that would be all we need,” Julia said in her old age, remembering her beloved Paul years after he had died. Notice, she did not say, “If we could just have a house that faces southwest and has a nice terrace,” or “if we could just have an en suite bath with his and her walk-in closets.” Julia knew that all they needed to be happy was sharing good food and having a lot of sex. And so they were.
It’s one of the great mysteries of modern American life: People (okay, women mostly) are desperate to get married, then, after one to four years (according to some studies I’m too lazy to look up), begin losing interest in the exact activities that help nurture and sustain the intimacy they so craved. Meals still get made, because the family has to eat, but sex becomes a lower priority than making sure your child has a clean soccer uniform. No child ever died from wearing a dirty pair of shorts, but many a marriage perishes from lack of sex.
The old saying “Happy wife, happy life” is only a saying because it rhymes. The reality is that husbands are much easier to please than wives.
As long as you’re naked and smiling, your guy will be satisfied. So unless there’s a legitimate reason why you don’t want to have sex (the water heater has burst; a child is bleeding from a major artery), when he waggles his eyebrows, at least allow yourself the chance to get in the mood. Plus, you don’t want to be the wife of that guy who nods knowingly when his buddies make that old joke about marriage being the best form of birth control, do you?
Are you starting to find this blog not so amusing after all? Are beginning to think, “Karbohemia must be a land where no one has three kids under five, a full-time job and a husband who throws in a load of darks and expects to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
Look, we get it.
Sometimes, we just don’t want to have sex. Sometimes, we’re too exhausted to even entertain the idea of getting in the mood. Sometimes, we’re too full of the Spaghetti Bolognese with meatballs we just ate, as a prelude to an evening of intimacy (Paul and Julia often had to take a pass on nookie, feeling too “bilious”). Sometimes, we’re full of thoughts we’d like to pursue to their conclusion, or are in the midst of reading a great book that we just don’t want to put down because the mister has started kissing his way down our neck.
There is, however, a little discussed solution that will make everyone happy.
Bake a pie.
A pie is food, but it’s also a beautiful object. It’s festive, makes the house smell great, and it is the rare spouse who is not catapulted into an instant good mood when he spies you pulling a hot pie from the oven.
A pie is not sex, but it’s almost sex, with its sizzling hot fruit and association with every guy’s secret favorite movie, “American Pie.” Plus, there is no one sexier than a woman who can whip out a pie.
The presence of a homemade pie on the kitchen counter creates so much domestic tranquility, it would be criminal for us not to share:
Karbohemia’s Ecstasy-Inducing, Relationship Enhancing Berry Pie
Crust (for one double crust 9″ pie)
2 cups flour
1 cup cold shortening (1/2 butter, 1/2 vegetable shortening)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (you can live without this, but if you can’t bear the thought of a pie crust without a speck of sugar, go for it)
glass of ice water
Combine flour and salt, add the shortening by cutting into small cubes.
Mix with your hands, breaking up the pieces of shortening between your fingers. The goal is NOT an even cornmeal consistency, but a lumpy combo with some of the shortening fully broken down, but also with lots of pea size bits. It should look highly imperfect, and the less you work it, the better.
Pour about half a cup of ice water into the flour mixture and begin to combine the dough into two balls, roughly the same size. This won’t be quite enough water, but you’ll add the rest by teaspoons. You don’t want the dough too wet. Refrigerate the dough balls for half an hour.
Beautiful Berry Innards
3 pints of blackberries, boysenberries or marion berries (I like to combine them)
1/4 – 1/3 cup flour (depending on how juicy the berries are)
2 tablespoons quick cook tapioca
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like it; we like our pies on the tart side
Mix together and set aside.
Preheat oven to 450.
The Roll Out
Note: for no reason you’ll be able to discern, some days it’ll roll easy as, well, pie, and some days you’ll be piecing together pieces in the bottom of the dish and wondering what went wrong. Don’t worry about it. If parts of it break, fit them into the dish the best you can and smooth over the break with a finger dipped in ice water.
I roll my crust out on a flour-covered pastry cloth with a 7-Up bottle encased in a tube sock, also covered with flour. Julia recommended a wooden rolling pin (which she also used to whack the chilled dough ball a few times before she began rolling), but you’ll figure out what works best for you. Roll from the center, moving from one quarter to the next, checking now and then to make sure it’s not sticking to the rolling surface. Roll until it measures about 2″ larger than the dish.
I like to bring the dish to the crust instead of the crust to the dish. If the Man of the House is around, we each pick up one side of the crust and I slide the dish under it.
Now, remove the other ball of dough from the refrigerator, roll it out, and cut the dough into even strips for your glorious lattice work, like so.
Assembling the Pie
Pour the berry mixture into the crust, using a slotted spoon if the fruit still seems too juicy.
As you do your lattice work (see above), feel as if you could totally take Julia in a pie-bake off.
After the lattice is done, brush the top with one beaten egg and sprinkle with raw sugar (don’t worry, the egg wash won’t affect the taste.)
Dice up pencil eraser-size pieces of butter to tuck into each open square, directly on top of the berry mixture.
Bake for 10 minutes at 450, then reduce heat to 350 and bake 35ish minutes more.
Cool for at least 6 hours, but preferably wait until the next day.
Enjoy all the good will you’ve created. (While you’re waiting to eat the pie, you’ll feel so good about yourself you may just spend some time in the bedroom.)
sources: Pulia valentine, www.VanityFair.com; Man-woman panel, www.arts-stew.com; American Pie, www.imdb.com