The Strife of Pie


Despite being a pacifist, a Zen Master and lover of all life, sometimes I do so wish a slow, painful death upon certain members of my species. The creators of the laws concerning the grounded ball in rugby spring to mind, as does the unsolicited insurance sales person and the windmill-impressionist car guard from Central Africa.

Another dead cert for a death induced by using gentle tools such as blow-torches, tongs and dentist-drills, is the manufacturer of the Garage Pie.

Okay, no person in his or her right mind should be forced to eat a garage pie. And I would not even shove this pastry-covered parcel of meat down the throat of a beloved goose preparing to deliver foie gras.

Because we know better. We know the meat is probably sourced from a Syrian mortar attack – or worse – from the off-cuts section at Checkers. Also, we know the cheap, flaky pastry is going to give you heartburn so strong it will make your eyes water and gut-wrenching enough to make your balls fall off.

But oh, oh, we are all human. And so you find yourself between Cape Town and Kakamas. At an Engen garage forecourt café. It is dark and cold. You are tired and hungry, your mind weak from the hours of concentration and the sounds of your overplayed CD collection. Your will is nigh, too.

At the back of the café you spot a glass-walled warmer. And inside the warmer, they lie waiting. Golden puffs of pastry that look like offerings of sustenance from the Culinary Gods who could not make it to MasterChef.

Inside the golden crisp cases of hot pastry, you are told, one will find unctuous and satisfying mixtures of goodness. Steak and kidney. Chicken and mushroom. Pepper steak. Cornish pasty.

Your stomach rumbles and saliva gushes into your mouth as you open the warmer and the scent of hot pastry descends upon you like an invisible cloud of comfort and warmth. Pepper steak it is, and as the pie’s gentle heat moves from the packet to warm your icy tired hand, you smile.

Back in the car, you wait until fifth gear before removing the pie from the paper packet. It is nestled in an aluminium holder and, master multi-tasker that you are, you wiggle the pie from the holder as you keep your eyes on the road.

An Engen forecourt, where you can die from pie.
An Engen forecourt, where you can die from pie.

It immediately becomes apparent why this golden and potentially hunger-satisfying pie was forced to lie in another container. It feels limp and precariously soft. But the horse has bolted and with hands trembling with hunger, you take a bite.

Two things happen. First of all, the contents are lava-like in temperature and have no relation what so ever to the agreeable warmth of the pie crust itself. The stuff is hot enough to singe the anal glands of a Village People back-up singer, and now you are multi-tasking for your life. Inhaling wheezing gasps of air through a wide open mouth in an attempt to prevent your tongue from turning into a blister, you hold the pie in one hand and with the other trying to pass a slow-moving 18 wheel truck. And the cell-phone rings.

Jesus wept at this pain.

Now the next chapter of “Murder on the Pie Makers” kicks in. The hand holding the pie is also burning with the same degree of intensity as your mouth. From what? From the content of the pie crust.

But how does this happen? What content?

Okay, time to fire-up the blowtorch and look for Mr Pie Maker. (No woman would induce such pain and trickery on a man, ever, not even if he bonked her sister, mother and miniature Yorkshire terrier.)

The content of the pie, it turns out, is nothing more than a disgusting, thick, gooey mixture resembling the semen sample of a pedigree bull named Markos. It is – poorly – flavoured gravy thickened with cornmeal and judging by the taste, monkey snot.

But, may you well ask, is the pie not called “Pepper Steak”? And where is the meat?

Four little cubes of meat are what you get in one pie. Four little pieces of meat, about as far removed from “steak” as Angela Merkel is from Turkish Sex Goddess, lie drifting aimlessly in the sea of saucy wilderness that constitute this abomination sold as a “pie”.

Why is this so? Why call it a  pie if it is runny and soupy? The answer is so simple an MBA student from the University of Bogota would be able to answer it: to cut down on costs, make the pie filling 80 percent sauce and 20 percent meat of some or other variety.

And what about the pastry? The fact that the pastry managed to hold this slushy, gruellish sauce bomb without leaking makes you wonder what the pie crust is made from – crushed rhino foreskin, superglue and Pratley-putty?

The result of the pie attack was a tasteless mess, driving in the night between Klawer and Springbok, sauce all over my Levi’s and no sign whatsoever of a Swedish hitch-hiker who could volunteer to clean my lap with care and sympathy.

The road, brother, is long.



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