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As easy as pie, perhaps, but not quite as appetizing

It is Restaurant Day at this small, remote, and necessary island school. Restaurant Day is the creation of an innovative teacher as a way to add extra learning and fun to the curriculum. For this event, kindergarten through eighth grade students serve on the committees of their choice. They sign up to cook, be a waiter and serve, set and decorate tables, accept money at the door for individual dinners or the family rate, be the host or hostess, seat the guests and give them a hand-printed menu, or clean up and wash dishes. (There are inducements for selecting this last duty.) The proceeds of this evening will go to the Off-Island Field Trip Fund.

Community members have been recruited to help students make lasagna, prepare a green salad, butter and slice French bread, and make the pies. It is easy to estimate the amount of food to prepare because everyone in this supportive community will attend.

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This morning, the pie committee of six boys surveys the pie ingredients on the school's kitchen counter. We have three flats of California strawberries, locally grown rhubarb, butter, flour, chocolate pudding mix, powdered milk, and cartons of whipping cream. As the fearless leader of the piemakers, I suggest we each select three strawberries and then try very hard not to eat any more.

As a girl, I was taught to mix pie crust dough with my hands, and the boys accept this method. The county public-health nurse has arrived on the island. She walks by us and says, "I assume you all washed your hands?" Twelve flour- covered hands disappear into blue-jeans pockets. Then mixing resumes vigorously - so vigorously that Ben's stainless-steel bowl spins out of control and lands on the floor. All eyes turn to the nurse. She has her back to us and is studying a map of Africa. Everyone dives under the table to put the mix back in the bowl.

Water is added sparingly to the mix till it just forms a ball. Each boy places a plastic bag on the table, then a ball of dough, then another plastic bag on top. Circles are rolled out until they are a bit larger than the pie tins. Ryan, as he pulls off his plastic bag, whoops with laughter. He points to his circle where it says "bulk foods," backwards, in big red letters on his dough.

Eventually, 21 pies are lined up on the counter, and we are all very proud of the strawberry-rhubarb and chocolate pies.

The evening is a huge success. There's ample good food and friendly sociability. It is hard to blow out the candles and say good night.

Now it's six months later and the nurse has returned. Ben comes in, and the nurse greets him with a warm smile. "I remember you, Ben," she says. "You are the boy who spilled his pie dough all over the floor!"


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