Sunday, November 25, 2012

Alas, The Passing of the Mince Pie.... Anyone? Please ?

My 94 year old Irish/American mother is suffering, she has Macular Degeneration which is horrible for anyone who is forced to endure it but it is somehow worse for an artist.  She also has Parkinsons’s disease so she is disabled terribly.  I so wanted to do something nice for her this Thanksgiving..... not easy, as this year also marked the 5th anniversary of the death of her husband of 63 years, Boyd.  LIfe in the 90’s isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.  Anyway, in my efforts to make Thanksgiving and this sad Anniversary somehow o.k., I remembered her passion for Mince Pie tartlets.  I used to make those for my Brit ex-husband and I could make those for her.  She would like that especially with a cup of tea and a friend.  Maybe Jane could come over.  She’s 97.  

So, off I went to the grocery store to get the makings.  As I was not going to make it from scratch, I went directly to find a jar of Cross and Blackwell’s Mince or even the Non Such brand.  My trips up and down the baking aisle found nothing. Then, I realized it was Thanksgiving Eve so surely it must be found in one of the convenient display shelves at the end or the beginning of each aisle.  Not there either.  After one more trip up and down the Baking aisle with no luck, I sought the help of the store manager.  He was a pleasant man of about 50 and when I asked him where the Mince was he smiled and told me that they don’t have much of a call for that anymore.  He said that five years ago there was much more of a demand but these days there’s hardly any at all.  However, he said, we do have a couple of jars, I’ll show you where they are.  He led me to an aisle where I wouldn’t have expected to find it and there it was.  Cross and Blackwell’s Mince. They only had 3 jars.  I looked at him and felt so sad.  “They are dying, aren’t they?”, I said,   He looked down and answered, “I think you’re probably right.”  

Mince Pies and Mince Pie Tartlets were always the stuff of Thanksgiving and Christmas as I grew up. That, along with pumpkin, apple and pecan.  We usually had the full sized pie kind.  I never liked it.  In fact, I think I can honestly say that if it didn’t have chocolate in it, I wasn’t particularly interested.  However, after living in the UK, I came to have a genuine affection for the Tartlets and so, when I assumed the task of making our family holiday dinners, it was the Mince Tartlet that I chose to bake as part of the festivities.  My ex particularly loved to have several mince tartlets in a bowl with fine French Vanilla ice cream.  I have to admit, even to confirmed chocaholic, it was absolutely delicious.  
I would make at least 4 dozen of them to last until after New Years..... and even that 
wasn’t enough.  

Apparently, the presence of Mince pies on our holiday groaning boards wasn’t enough
for it to become ingrained in the consciousness of yet another generation of American’s.
It really didn’t take hold for another generation of Americans.  I don’t really know why.
Generations come and go, time passes and new traditions replace the old.   Given that this is a serious British
culinary contribution it should be cherished..... there aren’t many you know. ( Smile ) 

My family simply loves pumpkin pie.  Not so much for me.   And who doesn’t love 
pecan pie.  But, I’m afraid it won’t be long before Mince pie as American holiday fare will have simply Gone With The Wind.