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