The real temptations in life are not so obvious. They inspire you to think, “It won’t hurt if I try this once” or “Just one won’t hurt.” And pretty soon, you’ve given in completely.
And then there’s something like this, sort of the culinary version of one of those luscious femme fatales from film noir. The mere sight of it transfixes you. When you recover your senses from the blinding vision, you know this is a trap, one of the seven deadly sins in unadulterated form. It’s so clear that you can say, “I’m leaving now, because I won’t be able to stop.”
I first came across the item you see here—and numerous others of its kind—last year while visiting the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. No, the eatery that produces this mouth-watering, downright mesmerizing concoction is not located on the grounds of this national historic site and all-around cultural treasure. In fact, fine dining spots are so scarce that tourists have been known to venture quite a bit off the premises for some gustatory variety over the course of a week.
Make that 18 miles off the grounds in the case of Meeder’s Restaurant, in the small town of Ripley (population: approximately 2,000). When I first went there a year ago with three friends I had made at Chautauqua, we drove past field after field of vineyards, any one of which would have made for a nice stop, in and of itself. But we pressed on, and lucky we did, for Meeder’s was already filling up at 4:30 for its Friday night fish fry.
Well, the fish might bring the people out. But what put the smiles on everyone’s faces were those pies—astonishing to the eye, scrumptious to the tongue, awesome in their variety. The food cognoscenti rave so much about this that comments on some Internet sites indicate that people come from as far away as Buffalo to consume them. (That’s about 70 miles away from the restaurant, Faithful Reader.)
Last year, when I sampled the rhubarb pie, I was, if you want to know, operating on the mantra of my college friend Steve: “It’s a well-known scientific fact that calories don’t count on vacation.” As the pie slid down my throat, the lines that came to mind were from Paul Simon’s “American Tune”: “And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly…And I dreamed I was flying.”
This year, when I went back with my friends, I eyed the board in the restaurant that announced more than a dozen different kinds of pie, at $2.95 each: apple, blackberry, cherry, rhubarb, peach, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, pecan, pineapple, banana, chocolate, lemon, chocolate peanut butter, coconut custard, graham cracker, chocolate custard. Then I thought of the waistline I had vowed to keep in check a few weeks before, and decided that my out-of-body, levitating experience from the year before was enough.
Instead, I consumed vicariously, through what was on my friends’ plates—the evidence now before your eyes. You will, then, understand what it took for me to withstand this particular temptation this time around.