How to Ship a Pie

I had a gay pet turtle once. He was actually my brother’s, but I took custody when he moved to the other side of the country (my brother, not the turtle). That gay turtle  (let’s call him Turtle) shared a tank with another male (let’s call him Other Turtle) which is how I found out Turtle was gay. He  reached sexual maturity earlier than Other Turtle and soon started displaying the Turtle Mating Ritual. Here’s how it’s done, if you want to try:

1. Stick your hands out like you’re measuring about 18 inches.
2. Spread your fingers apart
3. Flip your hands inwards so that your thumbs are now pointing down and your palms are facing out.
4. Vibrate and wiggle your hands at someone who looks receptive.
5. Have all the sex.
6. Imagine how much drama and questioning that bit of non-verbal propositioning would save if people did that to each other instead of the normal, more awkward avenues.

But sadly as it turned out, Turtle’s love was unrequited, and Other Turtle had no interest. Or maybe Turtle was really just displaying social dominance behavior, because one day after about a year of this mating ritual, I found Other Turtle with all his legs and neck mangled. Turtle had bitten him until his poor limbs resembled ground pork. I did what any good turtle owner did: I took him to my nearest herpetologist and nursed him back to health by shooting his little turtle arm with little syringes of antibiotics and rubbing some powder that the herpetologist gave me on the open wounds.

But what to do about Turtle? Clearly he wasn’t happy, either because Other Turtle was not a female or because Other Turtle kept rebuffing him. Releasing him into the wild would have been irresponsible. I did some research and eventually found a pond in Florida that served as a sanctuary for turtles where he’d be able to swim around all he wanted and vibrate his horny little claws at his pick of female or gay turtle.

“You can ship him here,” the pond owner said.
I blinked. “Come again?” I asked her.
“Oh sure, I’ve received a lot of turtles this way. You can ship him UPS.”

She then proceeded to explain to me that all I needed to do was to get a Rubbermaid bin, load the bin up with wet paper towels, nestle the turtle in the paper towels, punch some holes in the top, place it in a box, pad the box with newspaper, and then ship the whole damn thing overnight, being sure to mark “THIS SIDE UP” everywhere as appropriate.

I don’t remember all the details, but I can tell you that I followed her instructions explicitly. I can’t recall how much it cost, nor can I recall if I lied to the UPS center or not. I suspect I did.

Not long after that incident, I had a baby, Clarice (that’s a pseudonym). Clarice was an enormously fat baby when she was born, at 9lbs 4oz (4.196 kg). She also had transient tachypnea her first week of life, which made her extra sleepy, which in turn made her nurse less, which in turn left her dehyrated. In the NICU, they fattened her back up with formula and the paltry offerings I could pump, and instead of my sleepy infant, they handed back to me this constantly and ravenously hungry beast. As a result of her barely satiable appetite – and I know I’m very fortunate in this regard – my boobs learned to produce a shitton of milk.

If you turn your head sideways, you can see her face sag from all the milkfat ❤

So much milk that when I went back to work pumping twice a day (even more fortunate – hooray for progressive work places!), I had to change bottles halfway through or else the bottle would start overflowing. I ended up freezing so much milk that not only was it at risk of going bad (frozen milk has a shelf-life of 6-12 months), it was also crowding out all my fucking meat. I wasn’t about to throw it out, no way. The hospital told me that shit was ‘liquid gold’, and I worked hard (by which I mean I ate hard and drank buckets of water) to milk myself like a cow, but a cow with opposable thumbs.

I did more research and found a sort of nearby milk bank that would be happy to accept my donation provided that I passed all the health screenings (I did). They asked how much I had to give. I told them I had about 375 ounces (2.93 gallons/11.09 L) I needed to move out of my freezer. They said, “We’ll send you a big box.”

A DHL box with a cooler inside arrived along with a label and instructions for how to ship frozen breastmilk overnight to a milk bank. They told me to procure dry ice to pack with the breastmilk and to ship the whole thing as late in the afternoon as possible so that the box wouldn’t be sitting somewhere all day, thawing.

I don’t remember all the details of this operation either, but I can tell you that I followed their instructions explicitly as well. It cost me nothing but the price of the dry ice. And I didn’t even need to lie to DHL about it.

Not long after that, I became obsessed with pie. I loved pie so much that I wanted to share pie, and offered it as a prize for a contest, the details of which are inconsequential. The winner, sadly, lived in Austria. And at the same time, a friend living in the Netherlands offered to send me authentic stroopwafel in exchange for one of my pies. I wanted to keep my word, and I also really wanted stroopwafel, so I drew upon my prior experience of shipping turtles and frozen bags of breastmilk and shipped those pies to Europe. I’ve since shipped pies to Finland and various states in the US, and having learned quite a bit about the process, I now share my knowledge with you. First, a few things to clear up:

  • It’s not cheap. If you must ship pie, only make pie-worthy friends one or possibly two shipping zones away.
  • It may not be completely legal given customs restrictions and licensing for food-handling/distribution.
  • Dry ice,  which is widely available in grocery stores now, will only explode your package if you seal the living shit out of it and give the sublimating gas no room to expand/escape; with a styrofoam cooler and a cardboard box, you should be fine. Just don’t put it in a air-tight container. UPS only cares if you have > 5 lbs (2.268 kg) of dry ice.
  • When they warn you not to touch dry ice, they are serious. You know that chicken breast you forgot in your freezer from 2010? That could be your freezerburnt finger.
  • Some pies don’t thaw nicely after being frozen. Fruit pies, cookie pies, and chiffon pies survive pretty well but forget about custard and cream pies.
  • I usually bake my pies first and then ship them rather than send a pie to be baked. Generally the people I ship pie to are people I like, and making them wait another hour for the pie to bake after waiting for it to ship and thaw seems cruel.

You will need:

  • 1 frozen pre-baked pie, baked into one of those disposable aluminum tins (shipping a pie is the only legitimate excuse for using one of these)
  • 5-10 lbs dry ice (I’m not saying you should lie to UPS, no no. Of course not. I’m saying that a large portion of it will sublimate, so that by the time the dry ice reaches its destination, it may very well be 5 lbs, at which point “It’s 5 lbs” would no longer be a lie)
  • a styrofoam shipping container with accompanying shipping cardboard box – the inside dimensions should fit the pie and a block of dry ice. 12″ x 10″ x 7″ should be sufficient (the outside dimensions will be about 15″ x 13″ x 10″)
  • lots of spare cash

1. Make sure there’s no bank/federal holiday occurring in the time span over which your pie will be shipped.
2. Seal your frozen pie in a zipper bag and place it in the cooler.
3. Place the dry ice on top and stuff the empty spaces (not densely) with wadded-up newspaper. CO2 is denser than air, so the cold sinks rather than rises. However, if you’re afraid of squishing the pie, it’ll stay frozen just fine if the dry ice is under the pie.
4. Cover the cooler, but don’t tape it shut. Tape the box shut, but don’t go crazy hermetically sealing it or anything. It’s not unlike Thanksgiving: leave room for the gas to escape.
5. Take it to your favorite shipping center, and of course DO not LIE about the contents of the box and say that it contains anything other than pie and ONLY 5 lbs of dry ice! Heavens no. 3-day shipping should be fine. I’ve had people receive their pies frozen solid after 3 days and still have enough dry ice to play with.

In theory, this should work with any frozen food item, but I haven’t tried it with anything but pie because I don’t love any other food item enough to share it with that much enthusiasm. Frankly at this point, it’s either share it, ship it, or vibrate my claws at it.

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