Friday, June 13, 2008

Father's Day Parade

By Bruce Tyson

New York City is famous for its parades, and Park Avenue is the perfect place for a Father's Day parade. Haven’t heard of that one? Well, it's a bit on the understated side. It’s not televised, and there are no Snoopy balloons, but you would never forget the day if you’d been there.

I was there just once, twenty-three years ago.

On that sunny Sunday morning, I got up early, and put two-month-old Juliana into a baby-backpack. We headed out to the grocery store – some twelve blocks away – to get supplies for the apartment. We walked to Park Avenue to take the scenic route, passing the uniformed doormen and the green awnings at each stately apartment building. People were enjoying the morning – on their way to breakfast or church or out for a jog. It was early enough in the day that pedestrians were still individuals, not yet part of a throng. As they saw Juliana's little head bobbing behind my own, each person we passed on the sidewalk and each doorman at his post could see that this occasion was something new and wonderful for us. One after another, they greeted Juliana and me with a smile and a salutation, “Happy Father’s Day.” As it turns out, we were the parade.

Two decades later, that morning remains vivid to me. Some of the older doormen, fathers themselves, wanted to make note of my new fatherhood, and in their smiles I read a further message, “Welcome to the journey begun.” This was one of those wonderful moments in life when very little is said, yet so much is expressed.

On that first Father’s Day we celebrated with a parade; as Juliana grew older, other traditions evolved. One year, Juliana asked what gift I would like for Father's Day. In addressing her question, I said to her that a father would like to be honored and appreciated in a personal way. It is the expression of care and love for a child that makes a man a father, and that kindness returned becomes the most appropriate gift. Translated, that meant her dad, like most men, can discover a wellspring of love in homemade desserts. We agreed on Chocolate Cream Pie.

Along the way, there were lessons learned from Chocolate Cream Pie. This dessert became Juliana’s first “specialty” in matters of the kitchen. She shares it with others, and, of course, sharing with others is an essential ingredient in a life well-lived.

Father’s Day Chocolate Cream Pie

  • 1 box (5 oz.) of Jell-O brand “cook & serve” Chocolate Fudge pudding mix (The chocolate fudge is much better than the plain “Chocolate”, but more difficult to find. If only plain Chocolate is available, add two tablespoons of good unsweetened cocoa powder to the mix.)

  • 3 cups of low-fat milk (skim milk is fine, too; it will offset the cholesterol in the whipped cream)

  • Use one-and-a-quarter of the three packages inside a one-pound box of Graham Crackers (Low-fat graham crackers are preferred, as Dad will consume at least half the pie. If Dad cannot be allocated at least half a pie, then make two pies. Don’t forget that Dad will be having pie for breakfast the next morning.) Do not use the pre-made crusts as they have certain similarities to cardboard. (We use the 14.4 oz box of Nabisco Honey Maid low fat graham crackers.)

  • One-eighth cup of sugar (There is already sugar in the graham crackers and in the pudding mix, so not much additional sugar is needed.)

  • 6 tablespoons of butter

  • Whipping cream (one cup)
    Amaretto liqueur (vanilla extract will also work.) (2 to 3 tablespoons)

  • (optional) 1 heaping teaspoon of instant coffee (to give the pie a mocha flavor)

The Pie Crust:Place the Graham crackers inside a large zip-lock plastic bag. Zip tight and then crush the graham crackers with a rolling pin. (If you don't have a rolling pin, use the bottom of a wine bottle.) This zip-lock technique should keep the rogue graham cracker crumbs in check. Melt the butter in the microwave in 10-second intervals; it will take two or three tries. (Cover the butter dish in the microwave with a paper towel, or you will be scraping butter off the walls.) Mix thoroughly with a whisk the graham cracker crumbs, the sugar, and the melted butter in a large bowl. Pour the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and fashion a crust. (This can be made easier by using the bottom of another pie pan to shape the crumbs more evenly.) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and then bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust appears slightly browned.

The Pie Filling: Follow the instructions on the Jell-O box. This means emptying the dry pudding mix into a large saucepan (and perhaps the optional instant coffee and/or cocoa powder), adding 3 cups of milk, and cooking at “medium” heat. Stir continually (especially along the bottom of the pan) for about 10-15 minutes until the pudding thickens and begins to bubble. Turn off the heat and let the pudding cool for 5 minutes. Then pour the pudding mixture into the cooled pie-crust and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

The Whipped Cream: Pour the cup of whipping cream into a mixing bowl. Add the Amaretto. Whip the cream until it begins to thicken. When lifting the mixing blades out of the cream, they should leave little soft peaks of whipped cream. Avoid mixing too long and letting the peaks get too firm, otherwise, you will have made Amaretto-flavored butter. The whipped cream should be added to the top of the pie just minutes before serving.

Serving the Pie
Make sure Dad gets the first and biggest slice.

Additional serving suggestions !!!
The pie can also be served on other occasions throughout the year, including times when Dad helps out with homework, chauffeurs everyone all over town, and picks up that thing needed for school tomorrow on his way home from work.
© 2008