Before you get too impressed over my invitation to join such a distinguished group, I will burst that bubble by confessing that “The Literary Club” was a farce, its name derived as a cover for the true activities of the group – low stakes poker. The closest we ever came to anything literary was the night Dr. Darry “Doc” Hardy of the School of Business reviewed a small pamphlet he had found with a title of something like “How to win at Boo-Ray.” His presentation was lauded and well-received by the membership, who knew (as all poker players do) that Boo-Ray can be a treacherous game, especially for the unschooled.
Shortly after I retired and moved to Lake Whittington and the Benoit Outing Club, the group had an invitation from a new member, Dr. Bill Stewart, Dean of the College of Business. Bill also had a cabin at the lake and he was anxious to cement his standing by hosting a pre-poker cookout. When I asked if I could bring anything, he said, “Well, I don’t have a dessert.” It was about that time that I opened the door of my freezer and saw several quart bags of shelled pecans, a gift from fellow Literary Club member James Donald Cooper, Registrar at DSU, who had a bumper crop that year from his backyard trees. I don’t know much about varieties of pecans, but I think they were distant cousins to what are commonly called “paper shell” pecans, and I needed to do something with them.
Early on the morning of the meeting, I went to Cleveland with the intention of picking up some form of ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins for the group’s dessert after doing some grocery shopping. Gazing over the grocery shelves, I spotted bottles of white Karo syrup and my mind started clicking. “Don’t you use Karo in pecan pies?” I asked myself. At this point, it seems imperative to interject that I have never been confused with anything resembling a good cook and had never attempted before to make a pecan pie. However, I can follow directions and the Karo bottle had a very simple recipe on the label. Besides, I already had all the ingredients except the Karo and frozen pie shells, so why not be adventurous? It would be a smart use of the pecans, I told myself in a self-congratulatory manner.
Returning to the cabin, things were going swimmingly. I had successfully completed mixing the ingredients, pre-heated the oven to the appointed temperature and was ready to pour the filling into the shells I had bought, which came in packages of two, very convenient for the two pies I had planned. That was just about the time the phone rang and it was James Donald and his wife Norma. They had driven to the club’s restaurant for lunch and invited me to join them. The timing was perfect. All I had to do was quickly pour the filling into the shells, place the pies in the oven, join the Coopers at the restaurant for a quick burger and be back before the prescribed 55-60 minutes of baking time had elapsed. The morning had gone so flawlessly I even dared to fantasize about winning at Boo-Ray that night.
To make a long story short, I proudly arrived at the Literary Club meeting with two beautifully-bronzed pecan pies that looked like they had jumped right off the pages of Southern Living magazine. The first one was scoffed down by the membership with gusto amid extravagant praise for the chef. I was beaming. But when someone attempted to cut into the second one, the knife would not penetrate the crust as it had done so easily with the first. (I bet women reading this are already having a smug “Ahh, Hahh” moment.) In my haste to join James Donald and Norma, I had not noticed the paper liner between the two shells and did not remove it. I refuse to shoulder all the blame; the people who make those things should anticipate such a happening and make the paper liners hunter organge instead of the same color as the shells.
“I guess you people never heard of a PAPER SHELL pecan pie before,” was the best retort I could devise in my feeble attempt to save face with the assembled scholars, some of whom were impolitely rolling on the floor.