May 1, 2014
When you come to Nashville to be a country western star, consider staying at the Hartleroad Hideaway. The bed is firm, the pool is cool, the deck beats all heck, the free take-home coffee cup is, uh, free, the tour guides are only too happy to let you off at Doom and watch you kill yourself . . . and then there is Aunt Judy’s Chocolate Pecan Pie. I’d enclose a photo, but I ate it. The pie, not the photo.
I have eaten pie a few times, to be neighborly, or social. I have seen pie fly. My fondest memory of childhood is me and my Grandpa Red at a carnival in Sidney, Nebraska, when I was five. A very fat white man, having won a pie eating contest (banana cream) boarded a Ferris wheel, the black operator of said wheel sending the pie guy into space. And soon, the pie eater got sick. He yelled, “N—-r, let me off of this thing!” The black man calmly unloaded everyone except the pie man and set the wheel to run endlessly. And it began to rain banana cream pie. “I will kill you, you goddamn n—-r!” Grandpa Red—he bossed oil rig workers and carried a Colt .45 cowboy pistol in the waistband of his pants, and his unblinking right eye scared tough men to death—signaled to the black man and escorted him out of the carnival.
I recently watched Aunt Judy make a chocolate pecan pie and bake a chocolate pecan pie, and I learned some street smarts and some art, and here are Aunt Judy’s pearls of wisdom: You make a pie crust from scratch. The tell is the top crust. If it is pinched between thumb and index finer, it’s homemade. If it’s seamless, it came from a “pie shop” or a grocery store and it’s factory dough and filling but it’s not a pie. Aunt Judy tells me this while she wields her pie thumb like Sissy Hankshaw in Tom Robbins’ “Only Cowgirls Get the Blues.” Use dark chocolate—it’s good for you. Eat some dark chocolate while you’re making a chocolate pecan pie. Eat some pecans while you’re making a chocolate pecan pie—they’re good for you. Hell, eat some raw pie dough, the extra rim above the thumb print. Mix pecans and chocolate and egg yolks and brown sugar into a slop. Pie slop is unattractive but pie is a thing of beauty. Pour the pie slop into the bottom crust and cover and thumb print the top and place in the oven and bake and eat some more dark chocolate.
Do NOT watch the baking pie. Walk to the swamp and watch great blue herons in their nests, feeding their gawky babies and raising a ruckus of hoarse birdsong. Learn how to use your brand new Kindle. Admire the stunning photography of John Hartleroad, whose pictures adorn the Genehouse Chronicles.
And take out the hot pie. Place it in the exact center of the counter island and let it set a spell. Put the first bite of pie on your tongue and let it melt and make embarrassing lustful sounds and bless the mixed marriage of black and white— OMG! Dark chocolate and brown pecans and white crust: Pie eating is a metaphor for America! Imagine Michele Bachman eating chocolate pecan pie and her soulless eyes start gleaming and she says the secret liberal password: “Rainbow.” (“Oh me, oh my, love that country pie!” Bob Dylan sang that, in “Nashville Skyline.” Was he singing about pie, or girl parts as pie? Either way, I am so there. “Lay Lady, Lay” should be “Lie Lady, Lie,” but either way the lady is there, know what I’m sayin?)
The Hartleroad limo will transport you to Bobby Q’s Barbeque and Catfish, to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, to the scenic byways of southwest Tennessee, to Civil War monuments, to waterfalls . . . but not to dens of iniquity. Dens of iniquity fans, drive you own damn self.
The Hartleroad Hideaway proudly serves Coke products. The bottomless iced tea is available 24/7. Coffee is too, but you have to be patient because the Keurig coffeemaker is only as good as the hosts’ skill level, and that skill level needs improvement, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Reservations are accepted. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Pants optional. Tell them, Gene sent you.