My wonderful friends made me a pie on my birthday, and not just any old pie, but my favorite pie, a humble pie no less, made from a box of chocolate pudding mix and Cool Whip, layered together in almost equal proportions and chilled into a store bought graham cracker shell.
It is the most beloved sweet of my childhood, having lived in close proximity to a Kentucky Fried Chicken. My favorite part of this oddly homespun hometown ‘n’ homegrown fast food chain’s offering wasn’t the chicken, as i didn’t love the peppery thick wet crust, made with floury mud and clay, packed around an overly large antibiotic plumped chicken breast like a grenade, too salty savory and breadlike, an american cold war chicken kiev. No, i didn’t care much for the dripping pickle and pimento mayonnaise coating desperately short ends of macaroni, although i wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers if you know what i mean. Not even the peristalsis stopping southern style biscuits, that would coat your teeth with the unpleasantly squeaky chemical effect of buttermilk as it filled your mouth with salt and dryness inspired my ardor.
I loved the desserts. The dessert I loved most there in the 70s was the plastic cup o’ chocolate parfait – rich inches of cold chocolate pudding, toothpaste white whipped cream (de facto Cool Whip) and crushed graham crackers lining the bottom like sandy gravel in an aquarium. as a child, i actually thought that someone over at kfc had a janitor friend at Nabisco, and that this friend would routinely sweep up the kill room at the main nabisco bakery and then turn around and cheaply sell the contents of his dustpan to make the base of this lowbrow garbagey treat.
Chocolate pudding, the most processed kind, not the artisanal kind that often circumnavigates a refrigerated case in better diners the world over, the kind that grows a skin, proteins in the milk coagulating and creating a protective border between you and the pudding, a sweet, self-excreted condom, that sticks to the roof of your mouth and can be pulled from your lips like a caul, the lacy fat which sometimes surrounds infants to cushion them from the blows of birth, but the kind that comes to you as a powder, like a dark, sugary cocaine, mixed with liquid and treated with temperature like crack. It looks fake and tastes fake and is fake – all preservatives and milk solids and extracts and something that controls your mind – and is delicious beyond compare. Foamy whipped cream which is essentially Cool Whip tops off this genius creation, its texture plumped up with air bubbles setting off the glossy egg glamour of the pudding and dulling the decadence. For some reason the graham cracker crust chastens the sinful dessert even further, the crunch like pop rocks but without the fruit flavor. as you can tell I have thought much about this concoction. It is truly one of my favorite dishes, trashy as it is. I can’t help it.
In the unlikely event of my execution, please get me this. If this is in my mouth, at least I’d go into the abyss with the taste of glory, which is just as fine as a blaze any day.
I even made my own version at home after school, almost unable to bear the hour it took to chill that motherfucker. I wanted it so bad and i wanted it fast and the longer i had to wait for it the more i would end up eating because it was like i was trying to sate not only my hunger but my desire. And so began my long love affair with chocolate, to whom I am monogamous, but the chocolate in this recipe is not quite the lure, as I can’t even really taste the cocoa in the dense bland background. It tastes more like eggs and it also tastes shiny, if light reflected could be perceived as a flavor. The texture is what I am after. It fills me, and I feel so empty all the time and this stuff, It just fills me and that is why I am writing this love letter to it right now.
I brought the birthday pie home, but not before texting my husband that it was coming home with me, as if I had found a stray animal to rescue. He was excited about the pie, but he must not have been that excited because he was asleep by the time I got home and so I ate that pie because yes, you snooze you lose, especially when it comes to this pie and hell – it’s my goddamned birthday and I can cry and eat a whole pie if I want to. Thanks to Ian and Sarah and Selene for making my birthday treat and making my birthday great and my wonderful husband for letting me have the whole thing to myself.