Martha’s “Key” to Happiness- Key Lime Bars- 72 eggs, 56 1/4 cups of sugar, 54 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 57 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 135 recipes to go!

July 5, 2010

Martha's Key Lime Bars

André's Key Lime Bars

I guess when you’re committed to baking 175 recipes, every now and then you’re going to come across one that really disappoints.

Well, I’m afraid Martha’s Key Lime Bars were a real let down. The recipe is fairly easy to make. The crust is really no different than any other graham cracker crust. Crushed graham crackers are mixed with butter, patted down in the bottom of a glass pan, and then baked till golden. Easy enough.

Extracting the juice from 24 key limes, was not so easy. Key limes are small, about the size of a really large grape. Each had to be cut in half and the juice extracted. Key limes are highly acidic and I found my skin burning about half-way through this process. Not a very pleasant sensation awarded after such tedious work.

The recipe also calls for 1 tsp of grated lime peel. I made sure to only grate the green part of the lime as the white under-layer is quite bitter. This holds true of all citrus fruits.

The juice, the peel, eggs, and a can of sweetened condensed milk are blended together and poured over the crust. The pan is then placed back in the oven until the lime custard filling is firm. It is then chilled overnight to set.

I followed the steps to a tee and the consistency and texture were spot on. The taste, however, was bitter. Well, tart and bitter. I deemed it unpalatable. My partner, Dan thought it wasn’t that bad but I thought the aftertaste was just awful. I photographed the dessert and then hastily plopped it in the garbage. I was quite disappointed. I love key lime pie and was looking forward to this desert. I’m thinking the key limes I purchased might not have been ripe enough. Or the lime peel was just not limey enough.

Who knows? C’est la vie.

I’m 40 recipes into this challenge and my love of cookies is starting to wane a bit. I’ll get my second wind soon but all the baking, photographing, and blogging about some really personal stuff can be a bit draining. Don’t worry, though. I am committed to finishing all 175 cookies. It just might take longer than I first thought. After all, nothing worthwhile is easy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about someone from my childhood. His name is Colin. He lives in California these days and does some type of work in computer science. He was always into the latest technologies and gadgets growing up. I happened across his name on Facebook and “friended” him right away. Not that Colin was always a terrific friend. He wasn’t. Our friendship really had mostly to do with demographics and geography rather than shared interests or appreciation for one another. We lived in the same neighborhood and we were the same age. Well, that and I had a swimming pool in my back yard.

I was amused to see Colin’s Facebook page claimed he was actually nine years younger than his true age. I wrote him a quick message on his wall. “Hey, Colin! Good to see you again! You look great for 42 but you look like crap for 33! Needless to say, he removed this comment from his wall pretty quickly.

Colin was a notorious fibber. As a child he often made outrageous claims. My favorite was that he was the great, great grandson of Lon Chaney, the silent movie star of the earliest horror films. Yes, it’s true his mother’s maiden name was Chaney, but there was no evidence supporting they were related in any way.

As a child, Colin was pasty white with a light brown bowl cut that floated above his long head like a toupée sitting on top of a fluorescent bulb. His large eyes were a piercing steel blue with a glint of mischief radiating from just behind his thick lashes. He had chubby pink lips that were often parted revealing his rodent-like overbite that fortunately drew attention away from his non-existent chin.

Colin was an expert on every subject whether he knew what you were talking about or not. He could launch into a diatribe on any topic and speak with unquestionable authority. When his answers were challenged his face were turn pink, his eyes would squint, and he would lower his voice. “You seriously want to mess with me, André? I can ruin your life. Don’t think I won’t.”

This warning always worked. I would always concede Colin was right, even when I knew he wasn’t. He was the only friend I had. So what if he was a psychotic using my social annihilation as his perpetual trump card, it beat doing nothing.

Colin was responsible for a lot of my early adult education. Most of the dirty words I learned from him and everything I wanted to know about  murder, monsters, porn, legos, firearms, bombs, UFOs, Star Wars, and sex I learned from him. To this day, I am still disseminating misinformation he shared with me long ago.  It turns out that a close encounter of the fourth kind does not involve getting to third base with an extraterrestrial and the James Bond movie, Octopussy, is not about a lady with eight vaginas.

Colin’s mom was a funny lady. She had bright red hair and wrinkled pale skin. She often wore shorts and a simple T-shirt and was always dragging on a lit, brown, Moore cigarette. Her voice was raspy and her cadence was that of most Southern women, slow and lilting. She knew her son was full of crap ninety-percent of the time, but she allowed him to go on-and-on. She probably first fell in love with his rants as a toddler and never really saw a need to correct him. She had raised the perfect, little bullshit artist. When listening to Colin’s wild exaggerations, she would simply turn to me and give me a wink to let me know not to listen to him. I really liked this secret little code we worked out.

Looking back, I’m not sure what Colin’s mom must have thought of me. I was an overprotected Catholic boy with no real friends who hung out with her crazy son and didn’t really ever say anything. I remember shocking her twice growing up. I had never seen anyone flip the bird before. I had no idea that a hand sign could be so offensive. Colin picked up on this and told me to go into the kitchen and wave hello to his mom holding up nothing but my middle finger. “She’ll think it’s sweet. Seriously. Do It!”

A moment later I came back into the bedroom with the side of my face glowing red. Colin laughed hysterically. This is what happens when you flip the bird at your friend’s mother. Lesson One learned.

Lesson Two came a few weeks later instigated by Colin and me singing the Name Game song. You know-

Donna, Donna Bo Bonna! Bananafanna Fo Fonna! Fee Fie Mo Monna! Donna!

Colin knowingly had me do the name Chuck. I had never heard the “F” word before. My parents didn’t use it, I had never seen an “R” rated film,  and we didn’t have cable. That word just never came up.

Chuck, Chuck Bo Buck! Bananafanna Fo F**K! Fee Fie Mo Muck! Chuck!

Colin gasped. “Oooooo. You said a bad word.”

“I did not. You’re just messing with me again.”- I retorted.

Weeks ago Colin taught me a few made up words and made me believe they were actually naughty, thus making me look really stupid in front of his friends. Apparently, “Go Plink Yourself”  is not a very savvy way to accost a sixth grader. I wasn’t going to fall for it this time.

“F**K?! That’s just another made-up word. You’re not going to get me again.”- I shouted.

“You don’t believe me? Go ask my mom.” – he replied.

“I will!”

I marched into the kitchen, went straight up to Colin’s mom, and confidently shouted in a voice loud enough for Colin to hear from the other room- “Is F**K a bad word!?”

I went home that evening with yet another red mark across my face. My mother thought that Colin and I had been playing too rough.

I agreed. Yes. We’re playing too rough. Perhaps I should stay home and practice my piano more.

As an adult, I’m still quite a gullible person. I am quick to trust, quick to confide, and quick to get burned in the process.

That said, I think I would be lost without my naivety. I like to think that every person deserves a chance to be heard, a chance to tell their story, a chance to be helped if needed. Sure, I might get taken advantage of sometimes, and even have my heart broken once in awhile but that’s the cost of integrity.

Many of us have encountered our own Colins in our lives. They’re in our families, schools, churches, and workplaces. These driven people are experts on every subject. They have the ear of everyone around them. Sure, they’re successful, but the glare of their success can only be reflected in the failure of others. Sounds a bit like politics, doesn’t it?

It’s really a short-sighted way of viewing personal success. Eventually we all need to be able to look back fondly on the people and relationships that contributed to making our lives rewarding and give them thanks for their support and true friendship.

Or, perhaps, I’m just being naive.

Oh, and if Colin’s mom is reading this, I’m sorry I flipped you off and shouted F**K at you. Colin made me do it. Feel free to slap him the next time you see him.

Maybe it’ll knock some dang sense into him.


4 Responses to “Martha’s “Key” to Happiness- Key Lime Bars- 72 eggs, 56 1/4 cups of sugar, 54 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 57 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 135 recipes to go!”

  1. Alarie Tennille Says:

    Sorry about the recipe. I love key lime pie, too. Fortunately, when I was growing up, my male pal, Ed,was much more like André than Collin.

  2. Tommy Salami Says:

    I’ve known a few Colins, and while I wasn’t as sheltered as you were at that age, I too am still realizing some of the B.S. I swallowed at an early age, from learned “Colins…”

    Pity bout the Key lime squares. I love that pie. Next time go to a fancypants store and see if they have keylime juice.

    I try to pity the Colins of the world. We’ll never know how lonely they are, or how badly they must think of themselves, to put on such a facade for a lifetime. They are their own punishment.

  3. Russ Says:

    “You look great for 42 but you look like crap for 33!”
    God, that’s a great line!

  4. nina Says:

    you know, i saw on americas test kitchen that persian limes (the big ones) taste better than key limes and more juice so they used it on their key lime recipes…but i take my hat off to you for following it to a tee! love this blog, andre! makes my mouth water…

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