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Impending Imbolc Pie

With this creation, I wanted to fold together my past memories of this pie, touch on its symbolism and connect it to today- the 250th birthday of the poet, Robert Burns. Indeed, this pie's ultimate destination today is a pre-performance potluck before a concert celebration of the Robert Burns where my husband is performing.

Growing up, my Mom just called it "Spring Pie" and it would appear every March or so- when the New England winter would begin to show tiny signs of easing (like crocus and stuff). We'd make this pie, I think, because the flavors (particularly the strawberries and blueberries) reminded her of easier seasons. For us, strawberries were more of a spring food and blueberries came at the height of the New England summer.

I added the Imbolc slant because on February 2nd, we'll be at the right season spot for this high Celtic holiday, also known as St. Brigid's Day or Candlemas. In American culture, its timing coincides with the more the whimsical Groundhog Day. For me, I know this time of year as "the quickening," or the time when nature starts to arise again (or at least contemplates) rebirth from the dormancy of winter.

And some more factoids that fold in nicely are:

- The word Imbolc (pronounced im'olk) from the Old Irish, means "in the belly" and refers to the pregnancy of ewes and is also a Celtic term for spring. I've a little one on the make inside who I'll make this pie with in a year or two.

- Regarding St. Brigid's Day, some Celts and Neopagans shorten the name to Brigid, referring to the Celtic goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft, to whom the day is sacred. Well, we're not yet at Feb. 2nd, but we are on the birthday of an amazing poet. If you glance through Burns' works, you might conclude as I did (some of his more famous creations include tunes to the  well-known Auld Lange Syne and John Barleycorn) that his persona was tempestuous- ah, a guy after my own heart--complex and stormy, be it rain or sunshine- I LOVE it.

I chose to add some decorative hardenbergia violacea because it is one of my favorite flowers that blooms this time of year. February and March are when it is abundant, but due to our January heat wave, it's especially vivid now. It is an Australian vine known as "the happy wanderer." Now that I'm a resident of California, it means spring to me.

And finally, the pie is fully "cat approved," though no cats were present in the actual making of this pie. Why is it that no matter what you are up to, they are always in your business?

Here's the recipe:

First an almond crust. For my gluten intolerant pals at the potluck, I made it gluten free using this recipe. The only difference between this and the way Mom made the crust is using rice flour vs. regular wheat flour and including cinnamon or nutmeg and cloves. Be sure NOT to overcook the crust!

For the filling, start by following the lemon Jell-O box instructions and as you are adding in the cold water and cooling the mixture, gradually add 1/3 cup of sugar, 8oz of plain yogurt (I used non-fat because it's what I had; my religion as Patron Saint of Dessert would typically command full-fat yogurt to enhance the pie's lemony creaminess). Mix very well with a whisk until the yogurt is throughout- getting the mixture bubbly is good or the yogurt will lump into balls at the bottom and separate from the jello.

Then mix in sliced strawberries and blueberries. Whatever you desire is the right amount of fruit. As adventure ingredient fruits, you might also try raspberries, blood or mandarin orange sections (sliced) or pears. Finally, whisk in a dash of lemon extract and a dash of lemon zest. Throw in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.

I also recommend using a big, deep pie plate- the box of jello mix with all I added went way beyond the capacity of my 1.5" deep glass pie plate.


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