Skin in the Game

We’ve known for some time that Mr. N loves theater and it didn’t take us long to realize this was more than a mere hobby. Maybe it’s the art of performance, or the camaraderie of the group, the ability to engage the imagination, or what is learned from walking in someone else’s shoes. Whatever it is, acting is intrinsically woven into his very soul. 

Mr. N's headshot

Mr. N recently wrapped up a three-week Shakespeare intensive with one of his favorite theater groups. The class, which met daily for three weeks, was led by a renowned French stage actor, Georges Bigot. As if Shakespeare isn’t difficult enough, Mr. N was the only person under 20 in the class. It takes a substantial amount of maturity to not only participate, but to also succeed (not to mention have been invited in the first place!). Admittedly the theater world is foreign to me, but I can recognize a professional when I see one. He is well on his way.

Sawmill Creek Vidal

He is thoughtful, mature, has an intuitive ability to read a scene and the audience, and works his tail off! He never complains about rehearsals, classes, practicing or nightly shows no matter how many hours are asked of him. He loves it. As a parent, I can’t describe the gratitude I have that he has found an activity that drives and engages him. Not everyone finds something this young, if they find it at all. And this year, acting has been a saving grace.

vidal pulp

It’s been a stressful fall for Mr. N. He left the comfort of his elementary school for the big, much less coddling classrooms of middle school. He’s hitting an age where his mind and body are both transitioning into those tumultuous teenage years. He’s never been into sports or physical playground games. He’s always been a thinker, an avid reader and a creative. He doesn’t have trouble making friends, but when tossed into a new situation like middle school, not fitting into a stereotype can be challenging.

making grape pie

Don’t get me wrong, Mike and I certainly aren’t the type of parents that get hung up on gender stereotypes and traditional roles. We encourage the kids to follow their own paths, be independent thinkers and to embrace the differences of others (one of the goals of this blog as you know). As adults we know there is a world out there full of different personalities, people with vast interests and communities where you will find both like and different minded people to stimulate you and challenge you. But being a kid isn’t easy – especially in the conformity driven halls of middle school.

Vidal pie filling

Add to all of this our sabbatical. Mr. N is excited, but he’s deeply conflicted. He’s old enough to understand the challenges that lie ahead. He is scared of leaving the comfort of his routine. He doesn’t want to miss out on his friends and activities. He was hesitant to feel involved at school knowing that this year was only temporary for him. But once he began his Shakespeare training and landed a new role in a play, everything changed.

Vidal Blanc Pie

He dove in with every ounce of his being. He studied and he practiced. He found purpose, regained his confidence, started to again thrive at school and much to my surprise, he also started talking. To us. Now, we’re new to this pre-teen and teenage stage, but we know it’s an age where boys and girls alike have a tremendously challenging and very active emotional life, and it’s important to keep open lines of communication. We also know it’s not easy. But a door seems to have opened and we’re going to do our best to keep it ajar. If acting is what we need to invest our time and resources in to help him find his way, keep up his confidence and have fun, you can bet our skin is in the game. We don’t know, or even care, if this is what he ends up doing someday. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. What we know is that for now, it’s a part of who he is and what he needs, and he’s already gained so much.

Ice Wine Pie

Speaking of skin in the game, I didn’t realize the origin of the phrase is theorized to have come from Shakespeare. Then again, what doesn’t have origins in Shakespeare! Well, perhaps not this pie, but it too has some skin in the game.

Vidal Grape Pie

Earlier this week we wrote about our adventures with a Concord grape pie. When our friends Laury and Tina sent us the grapes, they offered to toss in some of Tina’s Vidal Blanc grapes as well and we were certainly game! These green and gold beauties couldn’t be more different than the Concord.

FLX pie

First, they held up better in shipping. They are also a lot smaller than the Concord and as for flavor, incredibly different. The Vidal grapes don’t have the distinctive grape flavor of the Concords. They are not as sweet and have more tartness. Certainly more of a wine grape than a table grape.

Finger Lakes Vidal Pie

We prepared the pie in the same way as the Concord version. The skins came off easily and we boiled pulps to remove the seeds. We used sugar, cornstarch and Verjooz. We baked them in our double shortening crust with a lattice top. Aside from the time required to skin and seed the grapes, it was again an easy pie to pull together.

green grape pie

Now here’s where our family division came into play. Remember Mike and Miss A loved the Concord version giving it a full 4 spoons. Well, this one was the winner for Mr. N and I. This pie was like an ice wine pie. It was sweet, tart, had hints of citrus and honey. It had a smooth balance of acidity and sweetness. For us, it was lick the bowl clean. 4 spoons!


Mike and Miss A gave this one 3 spoons. They enjoyed the flavor, but the texture of the skins threw them off. The Vidal skins didn’t coagulate quite as well as the Concords and made for a more gritty quality. Despite my 4 spoon vote, I would have to agree with them, and so I’ve adapted the recipe.

Grape Harvest Pie

When making a Vidal grape pie, I would recommend using a full 10 cups of grapes; instead of the eight used in the Concord. The pulps of the Vidal grape are smaller and don’t go as far as the Concord pulps. You simply need more pulp.

Vidal Ice Wine Pie

I would also recommend increasing the amount of pie thickener, in this case cornstarch. The Vidal grapes are juicier than the Concords. Lastly, I suggest decreasing the amount of skins used by half in this pie. Since the grapes are smaller, you end up with a lot more skins – too many. Reducing the number of skins will help to reduce that overly gritty texture. In other words, don’t put all of your skins in this game.

FLX Vidal Grape Pie

We haven’t tested this new, adapted recipe yet, but definitely look forward to it. The flavors of this pie are out of this world. And I think with these adjustments, Mike and Mr. N will have this one at 4 spoons too. Like Mr. N it’s sweet and tart. It’s unexpected and non-conformist. And we’re certainly grateful for having it in our lives.

Print this recipe: FLX Vidal Grape Pie

grape pies

We’ll see you later this week for a new look at our double shortening pie. Until then, on with the show.

27 thoughts on “Skin in the Game

  1. ChgoJohn says:

    I truly wish I could have made it to one of Mr N’s latest performances, Kristy. Now I’ll have to wait until his return engagement post-sabbatical to see him again. Don’t forget I have his autograph. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hotlyspiced says:

    You do make beautiful pies. I so admire Mr N (and his parents for getting him to and from all the rehearsals and performances). How wonderful that he so enjoys being on stage even when he doesn’t have friends his own age doing the same thing. My boys also were not naturally into ball sports and often found themselves on the fringe but as for Archie, as soon as he was old enough to throw himself into drama and singing and dance, he really blossomed. I think your Mr N has a brilliant future ahead of him xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    It’s amazing that Mr. N has found something that electrifies him, that is no small thing. It can be tough watching our young ones go through challenging times – trying to figure out when to step in and when to step back and let life take its course… all stuff we muddle our way through as parents. Having just gone through the process of dislocating two adolescent sons from their home to bring them across the continent indefinitely, certainly had its share of moments but I can also see what an incredible growing experience it has been for each of them. Plus, do they ever have a great story to tell :). Adolescence is tough no matter how you slice it, Mr N is a wonderful boy who is blessed to have such a loving, caring family.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eva Taylor says:

    How wonderful that Mr. N has found his calling at such a young age, it will definitely help him in these challenging years. My nephew who is 15 has begun to hang out with the ‘rich kids’ and often doesn’t come home until the wee hours of the morning (3am!) and his parents can’t do anything about it (I think my dad would have had a thing or two to say about that!). Having this focus and maturity will make this journey through adolescence much easier I hope.
    The pie looks beautiful but your description of the skin making it feel gritty was a bit off putting. Have you thought about cooking the skins a lot longer to help break them down? Gritty is not a texture I would have associated with skins, maybe chewy? Or stringy? Not withstanding, I would love to try a piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      Gritty is off-putting and I wasn’t thrilled with the word (it’s all that would come to me). Honestly the skins were off putting; although chewy might be a more apt description. Still the flavor was outstanding! I think maybe you’re onto something with cooking the skins down too.


  5. Norma Chang says:

    I can truly relate to this post and am glad acting has been a saving grace for Mr. N. The violin was the saving grace for my son. Both pies in that last photo look gorgeous and delicious, I have a difficult time deciding so will have a slice of both please.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. sallybr says:

    Very touched by this post, as it pretty much covered everything about growing up, from the perspective of the young and the mature, the kids and the parents. It is wonderful that you can put yourself in his shoes this way and understand so well what he’s going through

    my best friend in Brazil has a 23 year old son with whom she can barely communicate now, and I can tell you, she did not do anything wrong – the distance just happened, a little bit each week or month or… it is very hard for her, and probably equally hard for the “boy” (can we still call a 23 year old a boy?)

    many hugs going to all of you, I will be as you know, tuned into your adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kristy says:

      Thank you Sally. Growing up is an adventure as is watching your babies grow up. (And yes a 23 year old is still a boy to his parents no doubt! Mine are still my babies!)


  7. Cecilia Mary Gunther says:

    LOOOOVE the Grape pies! And good for Mr N . He is a star through and through. Not just in the making. ALREADY THERE! The Sabbatical will be a challenge for him (there is no way around that) but all those new experiences and new smells, sights and sounds and people and all that travel – and with a mind already trained to OBSERVE – he will gather HEAPS of material for massive character development when he comes home and strides out onto The Boards again. Wonderful post! love love c

    Liked by 1 person

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