The 12 Pies of Christmas: 7 Swans A Swimming

Have you ever heard the story of the Ugly Duckling? The original tale was by Hans Christian Andersen and told of a homely little bird born in a barnyard who later finds out, after much suffering and teasing by others, that he is indeed a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of all.

Today, for the 7th Pie of Christmas, I baked Vanilla Cream Pie, and it, too, had very humble beginnings. Yes, even homely. For starters, take a look at this poor crust.

It is a store-bought crust that fell from the top shelf of our pantry to the floor (not the first time this has happened–time to reorganize, I guess). Luckily, the plastic cover stayed in tact, so I put it back and declared that I’d find the poor crust’s destiny one day soon.

Poor little crust. No real hope of holding a filling in…

Or so I thought….

I got going on the Vanilla Cream Pie filling, which called for four egg yolks. Important. Four egg YOLKS. I carefully separated the eggs into two separate bowls, and I even took the time to fish out one tiny drop of yolk that accidentally got into the whites bowl.

Proud of my pie-making prowess, I said to my brother-in-law who was in the kitchen at the time, “Did you know that if you get even ONE DROP of yolk in there, it won’t whip up properly?” “Really?” was his polite reply. I should have spent more time paying attention instead of pontificating about eggs.

Here’s what happened next.

For a custard or cream pie, you usually have to mix stuff in a saucepan until it thickens. So I stirred up sugar, salt, cornstarch, and milk on the stove. Then, my brain obviously crowded with all that “knowledge,” I dumped the daggone WHITES into the saucepan instead of the yolks.


I kept whisking and decided what to do. Whisk. Whisk. Whisk.


Add whiskey? Nah. Although I made a mental note to try that out…

Anyway, I just decided to dump the yolks in there, too. And I kept on whisking. It thickened up very nicely, and I added a little butter and vanilla. I tasted a bit (quite yummy) and poured it into the pitiful Ugly Crustling.

The next step was one I’d seen on cooking shows, but hadn’t practiced. The recipe said to cover the filling with plastic wrap tightly so that no skin would form on the top. I’m pretty certain I did not do this perfectly, because I kept seeing little air bubbles, but we’ll see…

The pie had to cool to room temperature before being moved to the fridge for several hours to cool before garnishing. Would a Swan Pie emerge? Only time would tell.

While waiting for the pie, I had plenty of time to think. That Ugly Duckling was awesome the whole time.

He just didn’t know it until he got to the right place and saw himself as he really was.

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.

We’ve all heard stories of amazing and beautiful people who came from humble beginnings. So many times, it just took them a while to realize their greatness. To make their discoveries. To be welcomed by those who loved them most. To see with their own eyes who they were meant to be.

I can relate to that duck sometimes, and I’ll bet there are many others who may feel like they’re in the “barnyard stage” of their lives.

With this 7th Pie of Christmas, I offer you encouragement. I pray that anyone feeling sorrow and trouble will one day feel glad for it. I hope for each one of you for a day of pleasure and happiness all around.

And if you’re already there, look around for a neck to stroke.

Hold up the mirror and help someone see how beautiful they really are.

That pie was really good. Who’d have thought? With such humble beginnings and so many mistakes. Hmm. You never can tell.


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