My Blueberry Daze
My Blueberry Nights, the latest from Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, is many things: a road movie, a meditation on love and selfhood, and an excuse for some serious food-porn imagery. One thing it isn't: a good film. It probably should've been obvious that casting Jude Law, Norah Jones, Natalie Portman and Chan Marshall (aka the talented but mercurial Cat Power) in the same movie would result in more sap, more preening egos, and more questionable acting skills than one screen can handle. Throw in superficial screenwriting—and gauzy, lingering frames that encourage each actor to pout and mug to maximum effect—and the result borders on unwatchable...except, well, for the gauzy, lingering shots of warm blueberry pie swirling around in pools of vanilla ice cream. (Law's diner-owner character pushes the pie like Prozac on the lovelorn customer played by Jones.)
The movie should have made me hate blueberry pie forever, but I left the theater badly wanting a slice. Food shots in film have a way of doing that. So I've been doing what I always do when a craving kicks in for a specific food: go to all lengths to track it down—or if I'm feeling ambitious, make it myself. I wasn't feeling ambitious, so I went in search of blueberry pie in Manhattan. I couldn't find a single one. My favorite pie source, Little Pie Company, doesn't make one. Neither do City Bakery, Balthazar Bakery, Ceci Cela, Black Hound or Once Upon a Tart. This can't be just because blueberries aren't in season yet; that hasn't stopped some of these places from serving other blueberry desserts (muffins, scones, Danish, etc), or pies made with other unseasonal berries. In summer, Little Pie Company does sell an apple-blueberry pie—and a Threeberry Pie is available year-round—but that's not what I wanted.
The fiercer my craving got, the more I struck out. I kept thinking about the beginning of the film, when Law's character tells Jones's that none of his customers ever orders the blueberry pie, so every night he's left with a full uneaten one (which raises the question of why he keeps the pie in stock, but that's the least of the film's screenwriting problems). Maybe that's the reason no real-life bakeries seem to carry blueberry pie on a regular basis. And I don't know of any classic diners in the city that have an old-fashioned selection of pies behind the counter, but once I find one I'm there.
I'm puzzled why there isn't more blueberry pie around. The stuff is heaven: a little sweet, a little tangy, and delightfully...blue. Nothing beats making a homemade one in summer with freshly picked blueberries, which I've done in the past on lazy weekends crashing with friends in berry-riddled Cape Cod and Maine and elsewhere around the Northeast. Fortuitously, I went to a rooftop barbecue this past Saturday, where the host served some of his great homemade pies—including a lovely blueberry one, which went only half-eaten (maybe Law was right). But by yesterday afternoon, I wanted more. My search continued, and I kept striking out—then I finally settled on Little Pie Company's Threeberry pie: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. A tasty compromise, and with some vanilla ice cream—hold the Norah Jones—it made for an almost-right blueberry night.