When I was 12 something really bad happened.
It was something so awful, so horrible and wretched I cried for days. DAYS. It was something that took my inflated pre-teen ego and clothes-lined it. Sent it flying, landing on its back with a thud and staring at the stars circling above. I was stunned. Shocked. In complete and total dismay. How could it be? How could THIS happen to me? TO ME of all people??
I remember the day like it was yesterday. Rainy. Cold. October. Middle school cafeteria with its linoleum floor and teal and red stripes on the walls. Gym uniforms, ponytails, squeaky white shoes. Most of the 7th grade girls are there, all knees and elbows, awkward and a bit clumsy. Skinny legs jump anxiously, butterflies flutter from one nervous tummy to the next as we await our fate at the bottom of the stairs. Girls are ushered through heavy swinging doors three at time, heads high, shoulders back. Smiles bright with braces and colored rubber bands. The unmistakable sounds float from the rafters above – the echoes of shouting voices, the hollow clasp of hands, feet leaving and meeting the floor with each jump, each cartwheel, each handspring. It can only be one thing…
Yep. You guessed it – cheerleading tryouts – the End All, Be All of my 12-Year-Old Existence.
I waited ever-so-patiently through my 6th grade year for the chance to try out for cheerleading as a 7th grader. (6th graders weren’t eligible to be on the team). I eyed the older girls in the hallways on game days with their red and white pleated skirts and matching sweaters, my face pea-stinkin-green with envy. I could.not.wait to be one of them. And being my cocky, invincible, pre-teen self, I was 110% sure there would be a place on that squad for me.
See, by the time I was ready to try out, I had already been cheering for two years in a Pop Warner league. Yes. I had EXPERIENCE. I knew WHAT I WAS DOING. I knew what a Herkie was. I was a FLYER and I had cradled FROM A FULL before. My squad went to actual COMPETITIONS. I had 1ST PLACE TROPHIES at home.
Yep. This thing was in the bag. Easy-peasy. No prob, Bob.
No one told me (or Will Farrell or Cheri Oteri) that to make the squad at school you have to have…oh, what’s the word…um…TALENT. Yes, you have to be, you know, GOOD. To be a Pop Warner cheerleader you had to get in line on registration day early enough to snag a spot, pay your dues, and show up. That’s about it.
At 12, I was a wisp of a thing, weighing in at staggering 80 pounds. I was gangly as all get out. My arms and legs had grown long and skinny, but the rest of me hadn’t caught up yet. I had no muscle, zero flexibility and I couldn’t tumble my way down a flight of stairs. I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked during that tryout – trying my best and smiling wide – most likely a beat off and step behind the rest of my group.
Still though, after hours of painful waiting that cold October day, I wanted nothing more to than see my name on that list. You understand, right? You tried out for cheerleading too? Surely you remember how important it was to be chosen?
When they finally posted the list announcing the new squad, one thing stood out to me immediately – my name wasn’t on it. I was officially cut. Rejected. I would not be cheering on the BMS boys basketball team from the sidelines in my red and white pleated skirt and matching sweater.
What!? Oh no. Oh no. Oh NOOOOO!
Dreams? Slashed. Day? Ruined. World? Crashing down.
I managed to hold it together as I weaved my way through the throngs of girls, some shrieking in the delight at having made it, others shrugging with indifference to entire situation. Once I hit the door, it started – the epic, blubbering cry-fest that lasted days. I was not going to be a cheerleader and I was never going to get over it. I was devastated. Hell, devastated doesn’t even begin to cover it. Try mortally wounded. Try a shell of my former self.
Of course, I’m poking fun at myself here. A shell of my former self? LOL. Please. Looking back on the Day my Entire World Came to End, I can’t help but laugh. How silly, right? To get so upset about something as trivial as making the cheerleading squad? But you know. You understand. Because you were 12 once too.
Out of this tragedy a new tradition was born. My dad, seeing how upset I was over my cheerleading fate, offered a simple, but amazing gesture to help cheer me up. Even though I’m sure he thought I was being a bit ridiculous (can you say OVERDRAMATIC?), it still broke his heart to see me cry, no matter what the reason.
So, we went out for pie. Just the two of us, late in the evening after supper, we went to Baker’s Square for a slice of pie and a conversation. And although the pie helped cheer me up (I liked the dutch apple the best, warmed, no ice cream, please :)) I think the company cheered me up even more. See, my dad had a way of explaining this so I could understand them. (What am I saying, HAD? HAS a way…) He didn’t coddle me. He didn’t say they made a terrible mistake and that he was going to burst into the front office at school and demand they put me on the squad. He simply said, I needed more practice and could try again next year. He said in life there are going to be disappointments – that’s part of it, so better start getting used to it. He explained the meaning of the word “overconfident” and that it’s good to be knocked off your high horse every now and then – keeps you humble, keeps you thankful. Maybe I didn’t have cheerleading, but I had a warm, cozy bed to sleep in at night, food to fill my belly and a family that loved me very much. And if not making cheerleading was the worst thing that happened to me that year, I was doing pretty good.
Suddenly, it all made sense. The hurt and disappointment just sort of melted away. As quickly as it came, it went. By the time my slice of pie was nothing but a few crumbs and sticky fork, the tears had dried up. I smiled up at my dad. My hero. And I realized I was a pretty lucky girl with the best dad ever. A truth that remains constant to this very day!
After that, whenever I was down in the dumps, depressed, or feelin’ blue, my dad would cheer me up by taking me out for pie. I’m pretty sure, if we still lived nearby my parents, he would STILL take me out for pie. In fact, I know he would! It always seemed to help.
This Pineapple Strawberry Pie is sure to cure what ails ya. If what ails ya is you got cut from the team you are in luck! And if what ails ya is the winter blahs, then you’ve struck GOLD! Pineapple gold! What screams spring more than fresh berries and tropical pineapple? The correct answer is…NOTHING! :)What a fun and delicious combination of flavors!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had pineapple as a pie filling before. When I stumbled on this recipe, I was immediately interested. I wondered if it might be a tad too sweet so that’s where the strawberries came into play. Pineapple and strawberry is one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations and I thought the berries would help cut the sweetness in the filling. The result is a light and dreamy filling that tastes just like sweet, spring sunshine.
The crust and filling come together like any other standard pie. If you can take the time to make your own crust, the results just can’t be beat. In a pinch, store bought works just fine. Make sure you really strain that pineapple – it is very, very wet and it will yield way more juice than you need. I was very pleased that my pie had a nice, tight filling when I lifted out the first piece, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t be that way if there’s too much juice left in the pineapple. Nothing worse than runny pie filling!
Hope you’ll consider trying this different twist on a fruit pie! You won’t be disappointed!
And, for what it’s worth I didn’t throw in the towel on cheerleading after my 7th grade tragedy, I kept going with Pop Warner for a couple more years. I did eventually make a few squads – in 8th grade and in high school. And when I eventually got cut from the varsity squad as a junior, it didn’t sting so much. Why? Because I’d grown up. And because I had a great role model. I think we went for pie after that too, but there were more laughs and fewer tears. Thank you, Dad.
PINEAPPLE STRAWBERRY PIE (Recipe adapted from: Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters)
For the crust:
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup ice water
- Egg wash
For the filling:
- 2 20-oz cans unsweetened crushed pineapple (make sure it’s pineapple packed in juice, not syrup!)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup, plus 2 1/2 tablespoons juice from pineapple
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tsps. grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/8 tsp. salt
Make the crust:
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse three times to combine. Add butter and pulse until crumbly. The mixture should resemble small peas. Add water and pulse again until the dough comes together. Remove from food processor and divide the dough in half. Flatten each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Make the filling:
- Pour the pineapple into a sieve set over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Use a spatula or the back of your hand to gently press the pineapple to remove as much of the juice as possible. Reserve and measure the juice.
- In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 tablespoons of reserved juice and cornstarch until thoroughly combined. Add remaining half cup of juice, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt, whisk until combined. Add the pineapple and strawberries and stir gently until evenly coated.
Assemble and bake:
- Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Place the first disk of dough between two layers of floured parchment paper. Roll into a 12 circle. Carefully lift the crust into the prepared pan, letting it naturally relax into the sides. Do not pull or stretch the dough. Trim off the excess. Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with flour. Put the pan into the fridge until cool again, about 15 minutes. Roll out second dough disk for the top crust.
- Add pineapple mixture to pie shell. Add top crust, seal and crimp edges and cut slits near the center. Brush the top crust and edges with egg wash.
- Bake 30 minutes and check crust for browning. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil. (Which I should have done with my edges, but didn’t. LOL.) Bake another 15 minutes or until crust is evenly browned. Cool pie on a rack for at least two hours before serving. Makes 10 generous servings.
PS…I’m going to submit this pie to a fun blogging event called You Want Pies with That? hosted by Amy at Sing for your Supper and Jessica of My Baking Heart! This month’s theme is SPRING! Check out the round-up later this week for other blogger’s delicious, springy pies!