Summer is Coming: On How Blueberry Pie is Like Game of Thrones

I’ve only just recently started watching Game of Thrones. I know, I’m late to the party, only starting on the first season when the show is already in its fourth. It seems right and coincidentally parallel though, considering I was late to the party with the novels and only started reading them when the fourth book was about to be published.

I love it. I don’t really care about the departures in the show from the novels, or the differences in perception, or the lost minutiae necessarily cleaved because 785 pages is the low end of the length spectrum. It brings me visual satisfaction where before, I only had my imagination to help me picture what a guy with a wolf head sewn to his headless corpse looks like. Despite how dark and disturbing the plot can be, I get completely sucked in. Watching the political intrigue brought to life onscreen is concentrated schadenfreude, like one of those cans of orange juice in the frozen section of the grocery store. Only instead of coagulated orange pulp dissolving in water into orange juice, I get to experience the crazy shit I enjoyed reading all over again, one pulpy twist after another. How could I not love it?

I also love blueberry pie. That may seem like an awkward segue on the surface, but blueberry pie and Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire actually bear many similarities. With summer almost here and berry-picking season upon us and Game of Thrones not quite jumped the shark yet, I felt now might be a good time to go into those similarities.

Boobs
Game of Thrones has ’em. Boobs and boobs and boobs (aside: keep in mind I’m only in season 1, but the plethora of boobs shown are almost all sexualized, as opposed to the 2 penises devoid of sexual context. Something is wrong there). Large boobs, small boobs, altogether rather symmetrical boobs. So many different boobs! Yet the great equalizer of (unenhanced) boobs is the supine position: as soon as a woman lies down, her boobs flatten and go spilling into her armpits, leaving whoever’s trying to play with them to sort of gather the boob-puddles into something motorboatable. Or maybe that’s just an issue with us ah, mature ladies. Maybe you young perky types stay perky, I don’t know. Input on this is welcome, if you feel like sharing.

Similarly, blueberry pie filling has a tendency to be on the runny side, and if you only rely on the natural pectin in blueberries—a low-pectin fruit—to thicken the filling, it will escape and spill into the armpits of your plate (the difference is that boobs are still fun to play with, or so I hear). Pie fillings are generally thickened with flour, corn starch, or quick-cooking tapioca. This particular recipe, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, uses ground tapioca and a shredded Granny Smith apple—a high-pectin fruit—which also adds some balance to the flavor of the filling with its tangy sour taste (lemon juice and zest are also added for additional contrast). Think of the tapioca as the bra and the apple as the underwire where runny filling is boobs.

Being a Good Parent
I can’t give specific examples because I don’t want to spoil too much, but trust me when I say that being a doting mother to your children in Westeros gets you (or your children) killed. A better idea is to be like Doran Mortell and his daughter, Arianne, using her for his political and familial gain but not necessarily to her detriment. Maybe just to her consternation. Similarly, you should take advantage of your children and take them berry-picking at a local farm. This is a great idea for several reasons:

  • picking berries at a farm is cheaper than berries at the store, and you get the satisfaction of buying local and knowing exactly where your food comes from
  • children are an excellent source of unpaid labor
  • children, with their tiny fingers and short stature, can harvest the berries growing nearer the bottom of the bush
  • children think this activity is fun, so the entire time you’re using them for manual labor, you can tell them it’s a bonding leisure activity, and then later use it as artillery in a Mommy War to judge other mommies for not being as engaged as you are

Sharing is Caring
People who witnessed the Red Wedding last season with no inkling of what was about to happen provided really great entertainment for those who did know. Fun was had by all. But within that group of People Who Know exists a subset of readers who feel inexplicably smug and superior just for knowing what’s going to happen. This subset exists for Lord of the Rings as well. To be clear, I’m not talking about devotees of the canonical text, who want to know what happened to Jeyne Westerling and Tom Bombadil, or how the fuck The Hobbit got turned into 3 movies. I’m talking about the people who sneered and pointed at their friends’ horrified faces during That Scene and said (or posted) something along the lines of “HAHA, you should see the look on your face. It’s so awesome knowing what’s going to happen.”

Maybe it’s the same “I was there first!” mentality that fuels hipsterdom, I don’t know. Regardless, I don’t see the point when it’s a new visualization for everyone. The joy is in the sharing, like when I made Earl watch The Princess Bride, eagerly waiting for him to find it genius (because it is). Or when I fed him his first homemade blueberry pie last year. Somehow I managed to avoid saying, “Oh man, that blueberry flavor. You should see your face. I’m awesome because I knew the filling wasn’t going to leak all over the place.” Because that would be mental.


(Adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients
1 Foolproof Pie Dough (Part I and Part II) (you’ll need both halves since this is a two-crust pie; make 1 dough ball slightly bigger than the other)
6 cups (900 g) blueberries
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated (the big holes of your cheese grater are fine)
2 tsp (~4 g) zest and 2 tsp (10 mL)  juice from 1 lemon
¾ c (~150 g) sugar
¾ oz (~21 g) quick-cooking tapioca, ground (to which I say “screw that”, and use tapioca flour)
1 pinch table salt
2 tbsp (~28 g) butter, cut into little pieces

1. Roll out the big dough and place it in a 9-inch (~23 cm) pie pan, but don’t worry about the overhanging edge just yet. Just put the whole thing in the fridge and work on the filling.
2. Move the oven rack to the lowest position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (cleaning baked blueberry pie filling is a bitch), and heat the oven to 400ºF (~204ºC).
3. Cook half the blueberries in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Using a potato masher (the kind that will give you lumpy mashed potatoes!), mash the berries several times to release the juice. Continue cooking, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of the berries have broken down and the mixture is slightly thickened. Put it aside and let it cool for a bit.
4. Put the grated apple in clean towel (hefty paper or cloth kitchen), squeeze the juice out, and then dump it in a large bowl. Add the cooked berries, the uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt, and stir a little to combine everything.
5. Take the rolled-out bigger pie dough out of the fridge and pour the filling in. Scatter the butter pieces on top of the filling. I’ve heard of people dotting their pies with butter by grating it over the filling with a cheese grater or a microplane. This has never worked for me. In fact, I almost always forget to add the butter at the end which works out ok if I make a lattice crust, but if I do the double crust, I’m screwed. So don’t forget the butter. It’s bonus flavor!
6. Remind me that I still owe you an entry on lattice crusts.

7. Roll out the slightly smaller dough ball into an 11-inch (~28 cm) circle, about 1/8-inch (.3 cm) thick onto a piece of generously floured parchment paper. Using a 1 ¼-inch round biscuit cutter, cut a circle in the middle of the dough. Cut another 6 circles, 1 ½-inches from the center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Or do what I do and don’t cut circles at all, and just cut slashes in the top after you’ve placed the top crust on and crimped it. Flip the dough over on top of the pie, centering it as best as you can, and gently peel the parchment paper off, leaving some overhang on both top and bottom crusts.

8. Using kitchen shears, trim the bottom dough overhang to about ½-inch (1.27 cm) and any portion of the top dough that’s overly long. Fold both top and bottom dough together under itself (themselves?) so that the edge is flush with the outer rim of pie plate.
9. Crimp. Make some evenly spaced slashes around the top if you didn’t cut out biscuit cutter circles. Or spell something funny like “FLAPS” or “PANTS” if you like. Just make some steam vents.
10. If you feel like glazing the crust, you can brush the top with a beaten egg, or cream + sugar sprinkled on top, or milk. I don’t care.
11. Put the pie in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, and then bake it for 30 minutes.
12. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF (~177ºC), turn the pie around so that the part that was the back is now the front (unless you convect, in which case, lah-de-dah, you can just leave your pie alone), and bake for another 30-40 minutes. The pie is done when the filling is is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for ~4 hours.

Oh, sweet pie filling. So firm, but supple in my mouth, so eagerly and brazenly exposed.

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