of pies and Plato

I would call these pie crusts perfect. Perfect forms are something I don't really believe in, yet I found myself on Wednesday evening trying to explain Plato's allegory of the cave to a group of students and I could think of nothing better, at that moment, than vodka pie crust.

It was a done deal that after talking about them, I'd have to make some this weekend. I was momentarily distracted in the classroom by this prospect but quickly regained my equilibrium and got on with the mix of philosophy and mythology and general mindbending for which I'm paid.

For those who are interested, the secret of the crust is not complex: just subtitute half the amount of cold water you use in your crust with chilled vodka. It works as water in the dough but when baked, the 40% alcohol burns quickly off and therefore reduces the development of the gluten, leaving the crust heartbreaking in its flakiness.

But back to perfect forms. Look below at the bowl of sliced apples, chopped pecans, sugar & spice. Do you see a perfect cranberry in the colander or are these jeweled fruits all just slightly . . . individualistic in their expression of the ideal?

You're on your own if you want to invest a lot of energy in maintaining neoplatonic idealism and asceticism. I'm over in Epicure's camp, and see perfection in the sensible world. Consider that phrase again—the sensible world is precisely what it says. It is the world we can sense.

I can sense that the pies, loaded and ready to bake, will be very, very tasty when the time comes.

On that long evening in the classroom—three hours of deep lecture and discussion introducing the history of myth considered across eight discipline approaches—I was trying to move my students from paleolithic concepts of everywhen, as Karen Armstrong calls the undifferentiated material/metaphysical planes, all the way to Joseph Campbell's articulated concept of the transcendent field vs. the field of time. To oversimplify that latter idea, let's just say these pies are in the field of time.

The apples were, none of them, platonically perfect. The sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg were from plants that no doubt had blemishes or broken limbs. The pecans' shells were not precisely engineered and did not break open in the machinery in any way that could be idealized. Who knows what sea the salt was from, and what imperfect creatures cruised its deeps and shallows. All of that is a long way from the kind of perfect I mean.

Here in the field of time, we have the choice to see our physicality as beauty. The realm of the senses is real and its pleasures are precious. I and my dinner guests will be well aware of this when we slice into these beauties tonight.