Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slice of the Week - Frito Pie (and I'm back!)

I'm back!

I mean, I never actually vanished from all of life (that would have been odd), but I did have an extremely busy last couple of weeks in which I had to hunker down at my real job and focus and send emails and all those other things you do on a daily basis that seem really inconsequential but somehow take up ALL of your time and energy. Hey, a girl's gotta pay those bills somehow!

But, life has (sort of) stabilized. Or, at least it's calm enough for me to start writing again. In any case, you probably don't care all that much about my busy life. You want to read about pie. Well, I shall not disappoint (any more)!

Frito Pie

While on my southwestern road trip vacation last month (see some cool pics here), I ended up walking through the lovely town of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amongst the pueblos, churches, and vendors hawking silver and turquoise, I happened upon the Five and Dime General Store.

Normally, I would have kept on walking. Other than being an awesome song from Reefer Madness,  five and dime's don't necessarily interest me.

But then I looked up and saw this:

Five and Dime General Store, Santa Fe, NM

And then I looked down and saw this:

More Five and Dime sinage

And then I stopped right in the middle of a busy sidewalk, gave a little scream, flailed my arms, caused some general mayhem and confusion amongst the other tourists, and stormed into the store.

For a moment, I thought the sign was just a cruel joke. The inside of this supposedly magical place was nothing more than an unorganized dollar store with terrible fluorescent lighting. There were rows of kitschy souvenirs next to steering wheel covers and mop heads, and things certainly cost more then mere nickles and dimes. Confused and not seeing where to get my pie, I continued to the back of the store where I was greeted with this:

It's like you're at an old movie theater. Without the movies.

Slightly more encouraged, I stepped up to the counter where I discovered they were indeed selling something called a Frito Pie. The sign priced it at almost $5.00. I actually had second thoughts about going forward with my culinary plans - not only did it seem pricy (and I wasn't even too sure what I was ordering - $5 for a slice of pie in the back of a convenience store just seems wrong), I had recently eaten breakfast and wasn't even that hungry.

But it's moments like these that I call to the ultimate inspiration and ask myself, What Would Anthony Bourdain Do? (WWABD, if you're into acronyms).

He'd order the damn pie, Mary! That's what he would do! C'mon....

So I ordered. I was able to watch the bored woman put together the pie (I will not elevate this pie's status by saying it was made. That would be giving it too much credit. It was put together.) and here's what I learned:

Makin' my pie

The Frito Pie begins with a small, snack-sized bag of Fritos. The bag of Fritos is opened. A scoop of chilli, made with ground beef and a few red kidney beans, is spooned on top of the corn chips.  A half an inch of re-fried pinto beans make up Layer #3. Shredded cheddar cheese tops off the concoction. The bag is then put in a special holder that keeps everything upright, but this is only so you can pay for the pie. You don't get to take the special holder with you to the table. A Toppings Bar, comprised of onions and Tabasco sauce, is pointed out. You are handed a plastic fork and a stack of napkins, and told to go find a seat.

Really - where can I get one of these holders?

Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive. I'm fairly brave when it comes to trying strange food (I willingly ordered sushi wrapped in trout skin just last week), and I realize that one of my first recipes for this blog was a Taco Pie that was loosely based on this very concept, but this just seemed...not glamorous. Where was the smoking campfire? Where were the sweeping southwestern vistas? Where have all the cowboys gone???

Ah well, such is life. So I dug in.

Into the depths of the Frito Pie
It was...not terrible. The chili was caliente Y picante, which made my mouth burn in two different ways. I'm not a fan of Fritos to begin with, but the salty-savory-cheesy combination was surprisingly delightful. If I was a starving frat boy, I would have devoured this in a second.

Luckily, I brought this guy along as my personal photographer

I can see the appeal of this pie, both as a tourist trap ("over 3,000 sold annually!" says the sign) and as a fun treat for kids or cowboys. The clean-up, provided you keep the bag upright, is almost non-existent. And it was overpriced, but there was a good amount of food in the bag, and hey, I'm on vacation.

Frito Pie - Santa Fe, NM

As I was finishing up, I overheard an older gentleman tell his wife, "oo! They're serving up some Walkin' Cowboys!"

So they are.

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