Lick Observatory * 7281 Mt. Hamilton Rd. * Mt. Hamilton CA 94140 * www.ucolick.org
Two pies, two different dates, one place!
Now that you’ve clicked on the link above, you have deduced that there is no bakery on Mt. Hamilton. Up here the Lick Observatory can observe star bakeries – (I’m sure astronomers would LOVE that phrase instead of ‘star nurseries’ ) – and one lonely vending machine which definitely does not dispense pie. But there is a way to get pie here; pay attention singles – get romantically involved with an observatory employee.
Easier said than done. In my case I ended up with Rapunzel Pie Snatchers due to a cosmic soup of a chalk mural, Astrid’s grand driveway camping adventure, and the nepotistic advantage of having a Great Grandparent be the Lick director for 29 years. Needless to say there is a lot of ancestral woo-woo around these parts. And now I find myself cooking in a kitchen that is only slightly younger than the ancestors, on the same land where they also used to live, and um, bake.
To understand what cooking here means, you first must meet The Juggernaut. That’s Rapunzel Pie Snatcher’s infamous oven.
Juggernaut definition via inter web; ‘a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution’, and, ‘ a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path.’ And my favorite, ‘ Juggernaut is one of the strongest beings in the universe. He is often able to best Thor and Hulk in battle, as even the strongest incarnations of Hulk cannot overpower Juggernaut.’
You have to do whatever Juggernaut wants. This means Juggernaut decides his own temperature and you need a thermometer inside the oven, which doesn’t correspond to the numbers on the dials. For example, if you set a dial to 200, that really means Juggernaut is set at around 425….or not…..maybe the temp will go up and down…or not….You also need to click dials twice to turn them on, and “ DON’T STAND TOO CLOSE TO THE OVEN WHEN YOU OPEN IT!” Rapunzel Pie Snatchers warns. Without observing the proper rituals, Juggernaut may require a sacrifice, like your eyebrows. Despite the quirks I enjoy cooking with Juggernaut, maybe because I’m quirky too and – a-hem! – dangerous. All the adventure you need, right at home.
I set out to cook Mt Hamilton Apple Disaster Pie, and totally nailed it as far as desecrating directions go. No single step of this recipe was achieved within scientific method or reason. Changed the butter to vegan, replaced the pastry flour with two other kinds you’re not REALLY supposed to use in pie, chucked in random apples, overdid every spice within reach, rolled the dough with a floured water bottle on a 2/3 sized board. Threw the lot at the mercy of Juggernaut, which, by the way, also involved flapping Juggernaut’s mouth ( okay the door ) open and closed to regulate the temperature within 100 degrees of normal – not unlike those movie servants using giant fans to cool off the Roman emperor. And it turned out great! Mt Hamilton Disaster Pie was NOT a disaster! Juggernaut was pleased with my method of madness and blessed us with a heart festooned pie. Aww.
No problem, I thought. Now onto savory pies.
The God was not pleased. Tuscan Apocalypse pie was precisely that – a natural disaster. For hours I was cooking tomato sauce from scratch, sautéing organic veggies, browning vegan sausages, slicing vegan cheese and sprinkling Tuscan herbs like fairy dust into the mix. Recreating the same dough as before, and FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS TO THE LETTER.
I’ve made hand pies before – Thanks to Victoria at Victoria’s Last Resort! – and they were fabulous. Not this time. Juggernaut seems to prefer free will and chaos. Tuscan Apocalypse Pies were more akin to Apocalypse Crumbles, or what would happen if a pizza and a calzone got into a fight to the death.
“ Look away!” I hollered at Rapunzel Pie Snatchers. “ But take a bite.” Tuscan Pie Apocalypse WAS absolutely delicious, I’ll give it that, but you couldn’t look it in the eye – or shoot, take a peep AT ALL – in order to eat. Lesson learned; despite being located at a scientific research center, my pies here are best cooked as per my usual method – by doing what makes the least amount of sense.
Oh, more Mt Hamilton Disaster Pie WILL be made – and it’ll be made via collaboration between the quirks of Juggernaut and myself. In homage to this promise, here is a take on a brilliant Lick Observatory photo from Laurie Hatch ( I’m sorry!! )
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Surfing and Strolling at Lick Observatory
SURFING: Nothing of the sort.
STROLLING: Yeah! There’s a self-guided walking tour with informative signs. One of them them even features my Great Grandfather piercing his eyes out the side of the photo, which is cool and gives me the willies at the same time. Also public tours Thurs-Sun and some evenings, check the website for details. And a semi resident like me can bop all over the place, though being at the top of a mountain, EVERY walk starts with the reward downhill first, and then huffing back up. This exhaustive hiking style is how pie is inspired on Mt. Hamilton.