I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to describe the true horror of that hideously mangled Christmas. 

I remember it all so vividly: that chunk of pie balancing precariously upon my fork, raining bits of crust down onto the green olives below. 

The anticipation of that seasonal deliciousness, my drooling mouth awaiting the beautiful onslaught of all those flavors: Pepper. Cinnamon. The moist meat that seems ablaze with an array of flavors I couldn’t even name. 

Over the lips, past the gums, look out, stomach, here it comes.

I stuffed that bit of pie into my mouth, chomped down like a wolf devouring a slow-moving doe and awaited bliss. 

But bliss never came. In its place: Horror. Disgust. Treachery! 

“Gah!” I declared, spitting out the chewed remains into a napkin. “This isn’t tourtiere pie! It’s . . . It’s . . . FISH!” 

It was, too. Somewhere, somehow, all the holiday gremlins in the world had conspired to replace my salubrious tourtiere pie with some look-alike abomination! 

The real-deal tourtiere (meat, NOT salmon) pie.

Salmon, as it turned out. Some fiend had mistakenly given us salmon pie instead of tourtiere and the result was perversion and a complete violation of my taste buds. 

Salmon might be a perfectly fine fish, I really don’t know, but when your lips and tongue are expecting tourtiere and get something that used to have gills, instead, it’s . . . well, just look at the remains in my wadded up napkin, would you! 

It was late in the evening on Christmas Eve and there was no opportunity to right this horrific wrong. As far as I could remember, this would be my first Christmas ever without so much as a morsel of tourtiere pie. 

So, you can see why I remain traumatized to this day. I won’t touch a pie on Christmas these days without at least two certified tasters checking it first, and even then, I go in wary. 

Tourtiere pie is a strange beast. For one thing, I spent the first 30 years of my life pronouncing it “touche.” In spite of my French name, I could never get my tongue to roll in the right way to say it properly. Nowadays, I put in more effort, but still end up saying “tore-tea-air” or “torture ear,” and the clerks down at the bakery just laugh and laugh.

For another thing, I have no idea what’s in it. I’m sure somebody told me at one point over the years, but I either forgot or just didn’t WANT to remember.  

It might be pork. It might be hamburger. It might be the brains and entails of reindeer too slow to make Santa’s team, I really have no clue.  

Don’t care, either. All I know is that tourtiere tastes like Christmas. It pairs fantastically with salty green olives, and if you add Ruffle chips and French onion dip, then brother, you can start to believe in Santa Claus again. 

I know that too much cloves in your tourtiere is a bad thing, but so is not enough. And I say that not really knowing what the heck cloves is in the first place. Just sprinkle some in there, bub, and be generous about it.

But not TOO generous. 

I know that fish is absolutely no substitute and that mixing up salmon for tourtiere probably should be a crime around the holidays. 

And I know that eating tourtiere pie when it’s NOT Christmas is a violation of some unspoken natural law. I tried having some in July once and was smote by such a feeling of shame and self-loathing that I could only finish three-quarters of the pie. 

Thank God it’s the holidays again. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and salmon-free Christmas. 

Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

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