Feel the Burn: The Thanksgiving Cinnamon Dare

Beware.
Beware.

While most of you were gorging and napping this past Thursday, I found myself at work, sitting through the last 12 hours of an 84-hour workweek, on the 30th floor of a downtown office building. I'm not here for a sob story, though. It's the nature of my job, and I'm okay with that. Heck, I even managed to work in a Shiftwork Bites version of Thanksgiving Dinner while there. More on that later.

No, I'm not here for your sympathy. I come to you today with a cautionary tale regarding pie, ego, and the desiccated and powdered bark of a small evergreen tree.

As I had been otherwise occupied on Thanksgiving, my family decided to get together on Friday for a simplified version of the traditional feast. As part of that, it was agreed that we wouldn't force my mom to bake. Before heading over to my folks' house, I piled the wife and kids in the car, and set off in search of pies. After a failed attempt at scoring a post-holiday Flying Saucer pie (they were closed, undoubtedly recovering from the rush by drinking large quantities of high-proof liquor in a darkened, sound-proof room), I tried my luck at Pie in the Sky Pie Co. on West 19th. There, I scored one pumpkin, one pecan, and one buttermilk pie. I'm fond of the stuff and thought my buttermilk-loving grandparents might be, too.

Everyone seemed to agree that the buttermilk pie was tops, and I did a bit of research today, just to verify that I had missed out on a wonderful pie experience. You see, despite having a slice of each, I couldn't taste a damn thing.

During dinner, my youngest brother had regaled us with the story of a recent dare, and his resulting near-death-experience from a spice-induced coughing fit. A friend had told him it was impossible - literally, mind you - to eat a full tablespoon of cinnamon. Childish? Pointless? Of course. Nonetheless, a gauntlet had been thrown, and my brother picked it -- and a shaker of cinnamon -- up. He failed.

Now, what does any right-minded older brother do when told by his younger brother that something is impossible? You guessed it. As soon as the dishes were cleared, I was in the kitchen measuring out a tablespoon of the fragrant powder. As soon as it was in my mouth, I knew where he had gone wrong. A tablespoon of cinnamon is like an instantaneous case of the worst cottonmouth you can imagine. Patience won out, though, and the pungent mass eventually became damp enough to work into a sort of cinnamon dough ball and swallow. I had triumphed.

Unfortunately, the glory was short-lived, and immediately followed by the numbness in my mouth. As we returned to the table and to newly sliced pie, my fears were confirmed. My palate had been destroyed by cinnamon. Pumpkin pie tasted like literally nothing. It was just a study in textures, now, and the combination of custardy filling and flaky crust really loses something without the accompanying flavors. I tried the pecan. I could detect a slight sweetness, but aside from that, it was similarly devoid of flavor.

The most tragic moment was when I bit into the highly anticipated buttermilk pie. It could at least have tasted like nothing. Instead, it tasted like hyper-sweet, creamy poultry fat. That's right, cinnamon made this simple delight taste like schmaltz and Splenda. Stupid cinnamon. I didn't even get a flu-like high, like I've heard you get from nutmeg. Damn.

The moral of the story: Don't eat a tablespoon of cinnamon, unless you're trying to avoid tasting something. Or, of course, unless your brother tries to tell you that you can't.


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