Forget lemons. Lemons are the small baby tossed out with generations of contaminated bathwater when you ditched the US. You live in Mexico now, where lemons are rarer than hen’s teeth.
Limón means lime. There are two kinds, regular ones and what you think of as key limes. Get the key limes. Better flavor, fewer seeds.
Crush one package of graham crackers. If you can find them, which you can’t. The closest you’ll find are Ricanelas; they’ve got more cinnamon and less vanilla. Fuck Sylvester Graham anyway. He created graham flour and graham crackers because he opposed pleasure in all its forms. On top of that, he was a teetotaler. You know who else didn’t drink? Adolf Hitler.
Pour yourself another glass of mezcal. Tell yourself it’s a good thing you’re drinking less, even if you’re still drinking more than you should. Mom and Dad never drank mezcal, but only because they didn’t know it existed. They drank every other thing they could get their hands on.
Seal the Ricanelas in a gallon Ziploc, crush them with the base of the mezcal bottle, then turn the bottle on its side and use it like a rolling pin to grind the crackers.
Use your phone to convert a quarter cup of sugar and half a cup of butter to metric to match the measuring cups you bought in the market. It’s okay to round. People say baking is a science, but it ain’t rocket science.
Mix the sugar and crushed Ricanelas. Add melted butter. Stir. Press the mixture into your pie plate. If all you can find is a square pan like Mom used for baking brownies, it’s okay. Square pies taste just as good as round pies. Your mezcal glass will help you pack the corners.
Use your phone to convert 325 degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius to match the dial on your Mexican oven. Wonder why Mom never called the cops on the nights when Dad got smashed and lit into her. Decide it was because things would’ve only gotten worse after the cops left. If they’d even’ve showed up.
Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Set a timer: your sense of time goes to shit when you drink.
Prep the filling. Lightly grate the skin of five or six limes. Steer clear of the pith, it’s bitter. You want the green part. It adds color and flavor. Don’t say zest. Dad would’ve called that a ten-dollar word. You grew up on a cattle ranch. Ropin’, ridin’, speaking when spoken to, and using words like arena, dally strap, and corral you didn’t realize were taken from Spanish until you learned the language.
Separate two eggs. Whites go in another bowl. Yolks go with the filling. Then the sweetened condensed milk — you can find Lechera brand in any tiendita, two of the foil packets is close enough. Then add half a cup of lime juice. Don’t worry about measuring, just squeeze 10 limes. Stir until combined.
Beat the egg whites. Not like a redheaded stepchild. You’ve seen that, and it ain’t pretty. Use a mixer. Mom could whip meringue with a whisk, but she didn’t have her wrist broken three times before she got out of high school like Dad did for you.
When the meringue is stiff, sift in 3 or 4 tablespoons of sugar. Careful you don’t blow it all over the damn place. But if it happens, ain’t nobody here gonna whup you.
Pull the crust out. You could eat this buttery, crunchy heaven on its own, but don’t. The wait is worth it. Pour the filling into the crust. Don’t go overboard scraping it from the bowl.
Spread the meringue on top of the filling. Use a rubber spatula to smooth it into the corners. Mom could always form nice little peaks. You never could. It’s okay. Do what you can. Give it texture like the walls and ceilings of those shitty motel rooms you called apartments after you ran away from home.
Bake for fifteen more minutes. Pour yourself another glass of mezcal. Run your fingers around the inside of the bowl. Lick filling off your fingers like you and Mom used to do. The only memories you have of her smiling.
Pour out the mezcal. Call your mom. Tell her you’ll be at the house tomorrow, to back a bag. To get her passport ready.