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A fruitless search for perfect pie

I was born in St. Louis and lived there until I was about 11 or 12. The explanation for why my parents uprooted us from the only home we’d ever known is best understood by watching just about any Tennessee Williams play. Suffice it to say, we landed in Macon, Ga., which is where I met my husband, married and raised our own awesome four kids. My deepest heart, however, remains in St. Louis and I try to visit at least once a year.

I went up most recently to celebrate my Oct. 17 birthday. My aunts, Connie and Toni, cousins Patty and Bridgett, and childhood friend Jenny, the former nun, and I did something fun every day.

Bridgett told us about a famous restaurant in Kimmswick, Mo., so she, Patty and I made plans to have lunch at Blue Owl. Turns out, the restaurant boasts a levee-high caramel pecan apple pie that is to die for.

Well, that was good enough for the hearty Midwestern appetite that is woven through our DNA. We stopped by Blue Owl at 11:30 a.m. and discovered we couldn’t get a table until 1 p.m. For those of you unfamiliar with time zones, Missouri is an hour behind Georgia. There are good and bad aspects to this when traveling — the bad is when you are ready for lunch at 11 and everyone else is digesting breakfast.

Anyway, I put my name on the list and we decided to roam the shops and check back.

When we returned at 12:45 p.m. — 1:45 p.m., according to my stomach — we were told it would still be a while. It was packed. There was apparently a passel of slow-moving women not budging from a bridal luncheon and the patio seating was closed because it was cold. I went back in at 1:15 and groused about the wait. Within a minute or two, we had a table.

When we ordered our lunch, Bridgett asked about ordering dessert at the same time. The server assured us we could wait but she returned after lunch to tell us they were all out of apple pie, as they usually run out every day at the same time. Bridgett asked if we had ordered when we first wanted to, would we have gotten the pie? Yes, the server said. “Well, maybe you should advise customers of that, don’t you think?” Bridgett said.

Needless to say, we were ticked.

We left, thoroughly outraged and not knowing what to do except leave a nominal tip and vow never to return. In the very next shop, we were still miffed enough we told the clerk all about it when she innocently asked how we were doing. She immediately made a call, which led to another call and an address.

Apparently, the restaurant gets its pies from its own bakery in another town. Bridgett assured the clerk we would be there before the bakery closed at 5 p.m. and she promised to set aside the only two apple pies she had.

We hit the road in my rental car and set the GPS for the address given us, about 20 miles away, southwest of Kimmswick, which is along the Mississippi River near the Illinois state line.

“You have arrived at your destination,” reported the snooty woman who lives inside the GPS system.

We looked out the window and then at each other. Seriously? It was an empty parking lot. We checked the address again, on the paper and on the GPS. Both matched. Bridgett made another call and got another address in another town.

I plugged the address into the GPS system. It was another 20 miles, this time northwest of where we were. The next 20-25 minutes were pretty much a repeat of the first.

“You have arrived at your destination,” reported the snooty woman for a second time. This time, she was right. We were so excited as we entered the bakery, the mothership of all things good and wonderful and also bad and terrible for you.

“Y’all the ladies called about the pies?” said the girl. Wow, I hadn’t heard an accent like that since I left Georgia.

“Yes,” we said in unison and laughed.

We watched her bring the pies out from the back, melt caramel sauce in a microwave and pour the gooey goodness over the high pastry. The clerk boxed up the pies, bagged them and handed them over. After paying, we got back in the car and set the GPS for Patty’s house.

We talked about the pies all the way home. There were two, how would we split them three ways? Should they be heated first? That’s a personal preference. Should we add more caramel sauce? That’s always a yes, duh.

I flew into Patty’s driveway and the three of us bailed out with the pies and headed for her kitchen. Our mouths watered as we watched Patty empty first the bag, then a box. She cut a pie in half to package for me to take back to the hotel. I told Bridgett to keep the other, whole pie, because she has a husband and two teenage boys at home. Patty could share hers with her husband, Dave, if he was lucky.

A bite-sized piece of pie caught on the edge of the plate so I snatched it up and plopped it into my mouth. I chewed and considered the texture, scent and flavor. Patty and Bridgett watched me intently. “Well? How is it?” said Patty. My tongue and teeth maneuvered the crust, sauce and apples. I thoroughly investigated the ingredients with the palate of a baker.

“Eh,” I said, tilting my right hand back and forth.