First night of class, they had to call on old Prometheus.

He was there, way, way, way, way back in my mind. It was like pushing open an old door with rusty hinges….and a giant bookcase behind it, to keep out the intruders.

Of course, I loved mythology in high school. Burt VanderLee taught it. I took every class he offered: Latin (two years, until I gave up the struggle), Mythology, Comparative Religions. Sigh. He was so suave and debonair. It was purely academic.

Thirty-six years later, they want to know what Prometheus is accredited as giving to humans. Some soft-faced young man ventured (in a fairly confident way) that it is fire. He was right.

The instructor went on to say that in its spreading, Zeus was out of bounds in his rage (what’s new?), as fire is not diminished by the sharing. Fire grows. More fire begets a larger glow. The light, shared and burning, unextinguished, provides hope.

So, rather than being rather angry – leaving him on a rock for his liver to be perpetually plucked by an eagle – over the fire, Zeus was furious about the spread of hope. 300px-Prometheus_Adam_Louvre_MR1745_edit_atoma(This is a rather lovely marble, from the Louvre, of this terrifying image.) How can you repress humankind, if they hold hope in their hands?

Unabashedly, I will admit that I’m afraid I’ll feel like Prometheus by the end of this, plucked and plucked, but today I’m feeling rather hopeful. In a rusty sort of way.

This is quite a leap, but going back to the classroom made me think about being young. Youth has a persistent hope, if not totally quelled by violence, that sustains. Although we were, by far, not the richest people on the block, we were resourceful. My dad was handy and a good mechanic. My mom was a farm girl, a 4-H’er, and the oldest child of a family with an ill mother. She could make do.

Here’s a make-do….maybe you’ll use it sometime and feel a little resourceful, too. My mom would make it and we would argue over who got it, if the crust was a tiny one.

Poor Man’s Pie
The purpose of this pie, during the Depression, was not to waste a smidgeon of crust…and if you had no filling, to have a tasty tartlet.

Crust: 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled vegetable* shortening
3 to 6 tablespoons ice cold water

Sift your dry ingredients. Cut in vegetable shortening (*cooks during the Depression were delighted with vegetable shortening, because lard could go rancid, while this new invention had quite the shelf life…this side of forever…poor Prometheus) until dough starts to crumble. Form into ball by sprinkling in ice water, a tablespoon at a time. (See Back Then: Peach Pie for a better description.)

Filling: Well, this is the point, isn’t it? This recipe is for that last little ball of crust that didn’t make the pan when you trimmed it. Or for that end-of-the-paycheck night, when you need dessert and have none, and so, you make do.

  • Brown sugar or white sugar….or both…
  • Butter….a couple of tablespoons or what you can spare…
  • Cinnamon or nutmeg or ground cloves or a mixture…
  • Ohhh, if you have real heavy cream and some flour, you can create a custard….by heating the cream (not scalding, no! no!) and gently stirring in the flour by tablespoons until it thickens to a pudding texture….
  • And a cup of dark Karo syrup and an egg will transport it into brown sugar pie…
  • But if you don’t, just pat a crumble of the sugar(s), butter, and spices onto your crust and fold up the sides, maybe an inch (or less, if you can’t spare the crust).

Pop your crust into a preheated 350º oven and watch it! The outsides of your crust should be golden and your sugar bubbling, but not burnt. I had this, as a child, before PopTarts. It’s delicious.

It almost makes you feel like you’ll make the grade…like me, in Burt’s Advanced Latin.