Happy Pi Day!

Celebrating All-American Pie and the Election of the First Pope from the Americas

Tarta Pascualina

Argentinian Tarta Pascualina

Remember when I said a couple of weeks ago that my family had a Japanese exchange student coming to stay with us? Well, Sumika is here, and her visit happens to have coincided with some special occasions that have been a lot of fun. Her first Monday in Chicago was Casimir Pulaski Day, an Illinois state holiday celebrating a Polish-born Revolutionary War hero. You really can’t get much more Chicago than that. But maybe you can. Because the day before she leaves will be the day of Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, when the city dyes the Chicago River green – so we’re hoping to take her to see that.

But that’s all in the past and in the future. In the present, we have an international celebration, Pi Day, when we honor the mathematical concept Pi – which in my home (because everyone in it really is a geek at heart) is celebrated with the baking and eating of pie. And since pie seems to me a very American food, I’m thrilled to be celebrating Pi Day with Sumika as well.

But since the Roman Catholic cardinals yesterday chose as their new pope an Argentinian, marking the first time a pope has ever hailed from the Americas, I wanted to find a way to celebrate that as well. The result: a menu consisting of pie for dinner (Argentinian Tarta Pascualina, an Eastertime tart made with spinach, ricotta, four-cheese blend, vegetables and six eggs cracked and baked into the double-crust pie whole (the result resembling shelled, hard-boiled eggs baked right into the pie) and pie for dessert: all-American pumpkin pie, my mother’s very own recipe.

One of the hard-cooked eggs baked under the top crust of the Tarta Pascualina.

To be honest, the main course was only mediocre. I used a recipe I found on the web, and the flavor was a bit bland. But it’s an idea that shows promise, and I will try it again. Next time, I probably will use smoked gouda or some other cheese with more robust flavor than the Italian blend; treat the vegetables a bit differently; and bake another 5 minutes or so. But the hard-cooked eggs baked into the pie are a lot of fun, so I’m hoping to find a way to adapt this recipe and make it a keeper.

Mom's pumpkin pie

Mom's pumpkin pie

The pumpkin pie, on the other hand, was everything we expect from Mom’s recipe – the right texture, the perfect blend of pie spices, and on this occasion served warm. And the opportunity to share it with our Japanese guest was priceless.

So happy Pi Day, everyone. If you didn’t celebrate with pie yourself, perhaps it’s not too late. Go get a pizza.

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