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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Evidence that the more traditional literary themes can sometimes prove inferior

I'm reading a book about pies.  It's by James M Cain and it's called 'Mildred Pierce', and I think if you asked the author what his book was about he'd say something posh like 'family conflict' or 'survival in the face of circumstances' or 'loss of love', but basically it's about pies.  Have you read it?  (Or seen the mini-series which had Kate Winslet in it?  There was a lot of noise about it, all of which I evidently missed.)

It starts with a husband and wife splitting up.  This happens while they're in the kitchen where she's making pies.  Then they split, and she starts selling pies to earn money.  Then she starts working in a cafe and finds that the pies they buy are inferior to her pies.  So she persuades the cafe owner to buy her pies instead.  Then she starts a pie restaurant.  Now I read that she's running a take-away pie service as well as the restaurant.

That's as far as I've got, but things are building up, and I'm fully expecting her to win some major pie competition or get a royal commission for her pies or maybe things will take an unusual turn and she'll wake up one morning to find she has been transformed into a pie and can't move in any other way but pie-like (which isn't a lot of movement), like Kafka's beetle.

Mildred didn't mind having turned into a pie overnight, but she did lie there wondering
how she was meant to hang the washing out


Meanwhile, in between pies, Mildred's youngest child has died and she's had one or two affairs, but all this really does take second place to the pies.

It's really nice to unashamedly read a book about pies on the bus which isn't called 'How to Make Pies' or 'Pies, Pies, Pies Throughout the Year' or even 'How to Cure a Pie Addiction'.  There's something odd about a woman who takes a recipe book on the bus and even more so if she's so absorbed by it that she misses her stop and ends up at the bus station.  So, now, I can indulge myself in the description of the light pastry and the apple and blackberry filling, or I can revel in a scene in which Mildred crimps the edge of the pastry or makes a little leaf to put on the top.  I can let my little heart thrill as Mildred walks into the kitchen wearing an apron, covers her hands in flour and gets out a mixing bowl.  No one on the bus knows what's going on at all.

Unlike a recipe book, though, there are no pictures (apart from one of Kate Winslet on the front cover looking as little like a pie as it's possible to look).  This is a tad disappointing, but it forces one to use the imagination.  It would be no good for someone who had had minimal experience of pie, but as I have had wide-ranging and thorough experience of pie, I have no problem with the visualisation.

Fran blushed while reading a particularly steamy scene involving dark chocolate,
butter, sugar and a large dollop of cream


What I want to know is whether it's a coincidence that the title of the book - the name of the main character - is Mildred Pierce.  I did pronounce it 'Peerce' when I first got the book, but now I realise it's meant to be pronounced 'Pie-erss' as in 'pious'.  As you all know, 'pious' is a word meaning 'having deep reverence for anything to do with pastry' so I think that's what James M Cain must have intended.

While researching 'pie' on Google Images (as everyone should at 8 o'clock in the morning before starting their day), I found an image which fits with the theme of this blog post exactly, but is nonetheless disturbing.



Although Roland had been very happy when Susan had suggested some bedroom fun,
he had to admit, he was surprised to find himself being daubed with gravy



While we're on bedrooms, I just thought I'd report that my duvet and next door's tree are currently a perfect match.

16 comments:

  1. I have to say it was one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood when I realized that maths was not all about pie.

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  2. It's one thing looking at pictures of pies at 8 o'clock in the morning, but coming up with the name Roland is really worrying.....

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  3. Didn't Joan Crawford win her one and only Academy Award for playing Mildred Pierce back in the Forties? I've heard about the remake but don't know much about it. But I do love pies, especially apricot, which are getting harder and harder to find.

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  4. Steve - in my childhood it was. I never attempted algebra without a big pie in one hand and a pen in the other.

    Martin - you are beginning to catch on to the general tenor of my life.

    Stephen - you're dead right - I just looked it up. It seems that yet again I am reading a book I think no one else has ever heard of and then realise that the whole world has except me.

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  5. Did you see the 2007 movie "Waitress" starring Keri Russell? She makes the most wonderful pies. Good flick--you should watch it!

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  6. Up north, it is a common occurrence to see someone eating a pie sandwich. Yep, they DO actually put the pie between two pieces of bread and eat it.

    In fact, thinking about it, pies are the staple food stuff up north and are served with everything, including ice-cream if I remember rightly. But I might have made that last bit up.

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  7. I must rush to order this from the library.

    I did enjoy you reading the poems, by the way. Fancy you not having an Edinburgh accent, though. You do (in my head) when I read your blogs. So is that a Warwickshire accent, then?

    Blogger is making me Anon, but I'm actually Isabelle.

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  8. Frances - Of course, Life of Pie. I don't know why they left the 'e' off. You just can't get the staff these days.

    fishducky - no, haven't seen that one. If there are lots of pies, it sounds like one to watch in 3D.

    Annie - I remember someone I know eating pork pie sandwiches. Pie sandwiches of any kind seem a bit excessive, but I think I ought to try one, just for experience's sake.

    Anonymous Isabelle - I think the accent is now a mixture of London and Midlands. It's all getting a bit messy since we moved from the South to here.

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  9. Slapping one's pie between two slices of bread is actually the "LO-Fat" option , replacing the fat-laden chips . As with every dish , it is much more attractive with a garnish ... so a sprig of parsley can be tucked into the portion of baked beans on the side .

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  10. Goodness, it sounded quite northernEnglandish to me. Must listen again.

    It's a lovely day here. Hope it is with you and you're enjoying your half term.

    By the way - do enjoy being the age you are. I know it seems astonishingly old to you at the moment, but believe me, it seems desirably young to me. Sigh....

    Anon/Isabelle

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  11. Oh you take me back : I remember reading the book years ago. In the 1970s Penguin did a collection of James M Cain's books including "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Double Indemnity". Great stuff. I didn't even know about the new mini-series. Now as for pies ....

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  12. Mum - I was sorely tempted to ask you if I could borrow the book before realising that if I posted about eating pies Auntie Micki of the gluten-free-army would probably kill me.

    However, Isabelle - the accent is a combination of growing up in the Midlands and slowly being drained into semi-posh southener by her wayward children. Well, it's not our fault she decided to bring us up in South West London...

    (to be fair, years of living with northerners has drained my own semi-posh accent into something that resembles a London banker in a Yorkshire pub).

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  13. Not forgetting that other classic 'War and Pies' - which focuses mainly on traditional French and Russian fillings in really thick pastry.

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  14. SmitandSon - Parsley?!! Parsley?!! I will NOT have you coming on this blog and advocating unhealthy diets like that. Please desist.

    Anonybelle - see sausage's reply - it appears my elder daughter has decided to enter the conversation. Anything, just anything, could happen now ...

    sausage - hello dear.

    bb - Someone should actually WRITE that book, War and Pies. I already want to know all about it.

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