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Republicans like cake, because the cake is a lie. There is only pie. Through pie, I gain sugar. Through sugar, I gain energy. Through energy, I get stuff done. Through getting stuff done, I turn a lying Republican precinct into an honest Democratic one. The pie shall set us free.
Really, do you need anything more to celebrate National Pie Day, January 23? (not to be confused with National Pi Day, March 14)

This spring, we had a hard fought primary involving progressive Democrat Julia Brownley, a RINO-turned-independent, and several vanity Democrats all vying to compete against Tony Strickland in CA-26 (formerly CA-24, Elton Gallegly's old seat), aka most of Ventura County. A pie would be required. I had a lot of lemons - our county's biggest cash crop - along with some berries and a fierce desire to turn my purple county blue. I found a Lemon-Blueberry Tart recipe from Diane Rossen Worthington's The New California Cook, and started tinkering. Several pies later, the recipe looked like this: IMAG0456

standard pie crust; roll out to fit 8" shell, partially bake, about 10 minutes?

3 eggs, beaten
1 C. sugar
about 3/4 C. lemon juice (1 juicy lemon = scant 1/4 C. juice) - use Meyer lemons if you have them, and if not I shall pity you because Meyer lemons are one of the reasons why Ventura County is the best place in the known universe to live, but I digress
zest from all the lemons
2 Tbsp. cream
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
About 1/2 cup blueberries or raspberries, mixed in to the filling*

Bake until the filling stops wiggling, about 20 minutes more

* Note: this is my adaptation, not Ms. Worthington's original. Among other items, she calls for raw blueberries to be placed atop the fully baked lemon tart. I decided I liked them baked into the tart. I have placed cut-up strawberries atop the tart, because strawberries are Ventura County's other big crop, but I like the plain sweet blueberries better with the acidic lemons.

And we made phone calls - the little office with the hot pink walls in Camarillo was humming every day I stopped by. And Julia Brownley won her June primary. And throughout July we ate strawberry pie.

IMAG0623But come fall, a new approach would be needed. Tony Strickland, the slimy tea party Republican, was enticing voters with chocolate-covered lies about protecting Social Security and Medicare. So I walked every hot Santa Ana Saturday in September in a skimpy little tank top to get the old men talking with me on Social Security, and Brownley's office refreshed volunteers with Ice Cream Socials. And I worked on an Open Face Apple-Frangelico Pie for October days, adapted from Rose Levy Birenbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible. When I was done tinkering, the recipe looked like this:

standard pie crust for 8" or 9" deep dish pie

about 4 to 6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced very, very thin with your sharpest knife. The trick in this pie is to slice the apples so thin that they are translucent, then marinate them with the filling so that they lose their raw crispness and instead become pliable.

Filling, which I tended to make up as I went along, so this is an approximation:
about 2 - 4 Tbsp flour
about 2 - 4 Tbsp brown sugar
just enough lemon juice to keep the apple slices from browning
2 Tbsp Frangelico*

Marinate the apple slices in this long enough for them to lose some crispness and get a little limp, about 15 to 30 minutes. Test this by eating a Frangelico-coated apple slice...and then another...ooooh, that's good...HEY! STOP EATING THE FILLING!

Place what's left of the marinated apple slices in the unbaked pie shell, starting from the outside edge, curved edge of apple slice facing up, overlapping each other, very densely, so that the pie resembles an old fashioned rose with a lot of petals. Pour the juice left over at the bottom of the bowl on to the pie, and bake until pie crust and apples reach desired brownness, about 30 to 45 minutes?

* Note: this is my recipe after tinkering. Ms. Birenbaum's version is more complicated, involving caramelizing the juice at the bottom of the bowl. She uses the traditional apple pie spices of cinnamon and nutmeg. I decided the Frangelico made for an interesting nontraditional apple pie.

And Tony Strickland lied about protecting Social Security and he probably lied about chocolate cake in his oft-deserted volunteer headquarters, but he lost. Even sweeter than the pie: Strickland underperformed in Thousand Oaks, which had been his base but became home to the biggest, busiest beehive of activity working to elect a Democrat to Congress I've ever seen.

And we all celebrated by eating pie. Even this guy. Biden at Costco

My prior pie diaries, in order: What's for Dinner, 2009: Pie, of course has step by step instructions and pix on how to make a pie crust; What's for Dinner, 2010: Pie with Politics and Vodka in which I compare crusts made by hand, in food processors, with water, and with vodka; What's For Dinner, 2011: Local Activism A La Mode, in which I previewed the strategy you just read here; and What's For Dinner, 2012: Pie, Blueberry Edition, with bad jokes about now-forgotten Republican primary candidates.



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