Sunday, September 5, 2010


In 1980 Jerry decided he wanted to play more of a role in our food preparation. No, he certainly didn’t want to make dinner a few times a week, which would have delighted me no end; his idea was that he wanted to become the official Dessert Chef. Although I tried to steer him in a more “helpful” direction, he didn’t want to be a helper. He wanted to be the big “dessert” cheese, so I capitulated. Pick your recipe, I challenged him, and you can have a go at it.

He read the cooking section of the LA times for a few weeks until he found exactly what he wanted. It was called “Justice Lillie’s Chocolate Mousse Pie.” There was a good picture of how it was supposed to look to help him along – and the recipe itself was fairly straightforward. When the next Saturday came around he announced he was going to make the pie.

I suggested that he check to see if we had all the ingredients on hand. “Oh,” he said. He read the recipe, wrote down on a list what he needed, took his apron off and headed to the store. Upon his arrival back home he announced that since he’d put forth so much effort already, he would move the actual production of the pie back a week. The big event would take place the following Saturday.

My next suggestion was that he read over the recipe in the meantime to see if he understood what he was supposed to do and when he was supposed to do it. “Oh,” he said again. He was discovering that becoming a dessert chef might have a learning curve.

The next Saturday arrived. The apron went on, he set out all the ingredients, and then he advised me that he could do it himself and that I could go on about my business. The sound of ice cubes coming out of the refrigerator led me to believe that he was making himself a Saturday morning Manhattan to accompany his efforts. “Uh-Oh!” I thought to myself.

From that point, here’s what I heard:

“What does it mean “Grind wafers in the blender? Does that mean the blender or the food processor.”
“What does it mean, ‘double boiler?’”
“What does it mean, ‘pale yellow?’”
“What does it mean ‘Chocolate will congeal…?’”
“What does “fold” mean?”
“How gradually do I beat in the sugar?”

He was truly flying blind. He didn’t want me to come in and help him, so I simply passed on the answers in a loud enough voice that he could hear from the den, where I sat reading the newspaper.

When he finally put the Justice’s pie together in the spring form pan, (yes, there was a “What is a spring-form pan?” also) and tucked it into the refrigerator for an overnight stay, I came into the kitchen. There were chocolate streaks all over the white wall phone that he had answered a couple of times while he was whipping up his masterpiece. It hadn’t occurred to him to use a paper towel to grab the phone. And since he was using a hand-beater for his “beating,” it was obvious that he did not realize what would happen if he pulled the beaters out of the chocolate pudding without turning the beater off first. Our narrow galley kitchen was covered with streaks of chocolate pudding from top to bottom, on all the cabinets and on the floor. Not big blobs of it, just tiny little streaks that a still-whirring electric beater would fling over everything.

He denied making a mess, and I suspect that keeping his Manhattan glass full had caused him to see only perfection in his machinations. Together we got the kitchen back in order and we went out to dinner that night, as he didn’t want me to snoop in the fridge to see his wonderful dessert.

The next day he poured us each a Manhattan, donned his apron, removed the spring form pan and called me in to see the results of his labor. He was one happy man. It didn’t matter to him that it didn’t look quite like what the newspaper had shown as “Justice Lillie’s Chocolate Mousse Pie.” I asked him what all those white things were in the body of the pie and he said he didn’t know, but that it would taste good anyway.

It did. Shortly after that he decided he’d had enough of being a dessert chef and started looking at recipes for meats to throw on the grill. That was fine by me. Scrubbing chocolate off telephones and cabinets and walls was not my idea of good cooking.

Justice Mildred Lillie of the Court of Appeals in Los Angeles is the one this pie is named for and you can find her recipe by Googling it. Jerry had a much easier time with meats – and one of these days I’ll share one of his fabulous finds, which is easily produced without the Manhattan in hand.

1 comment:

Olga said...

A funny post! I really enjoyed reading it, and I like the pouring a Manhatten cooking tip. Haven't had one of those in ages and ages.