Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lessons in Living: Why I Bake Pies

I love pie.

As a very small child, my birthday cake of choice was a pink angel food cake with pink frosting. But as I grew older, I found I preferred a birthday pie to a birthday cake. Usually lemon meringue as I adore lemon. Or chocolate chiffon, which was what my mother usually baked to serve when she hosted her bunco club group when we lived in Falls City. We used to hope against hope that there would be some of that pie left over for us, but it rarely happened.

The person who truly inspired my pie baking was my Aunt Edith. Aunt Edith was married to my mom's brother, Junior, and I remember her as a gentle soul who made quilts and baked pies. She and her sister owned the local dry goods store in Falls City and after I learned to sew, I would frequently drive the 16 miles from Kenedy to shop for fabric at Edith's store.

While I remember Edith for her contributions to my love of sewing, when I think of her, I usually think of her pies. Mom could make a pie, but it wasn't her favorite thing to do. She seemed to think it of it as a struggle and I don't remember her making an many pies, aside from the aforementioned chocolate chiffon. But it seemed that at Aunt Edith's house there was always a pie or pies.*  To me it was a message: pie is possible and you can do it. And I do. In my early pie making attempts I can remember using various packaged pie crust mixes and the ubiquitous ready made crusts. But that wasn't enough for me. So, I taught myself how to make homemade pie crusts. And what a rewarding journey it has been. And no, I don't think it is cheating to use the ready made pie crusts, but only with home made pie crust do you get delectable little leftover bits of pie dough to pop into your mouth. There is a method to my pie madness.

Yesterday I indulged in a positive orgy of pie baking. We held our annual pumpkin carving party for our neighbors and friends and, as has been traditional from the very first party, there was pie for dinner and dessert. Two huge savory pies filled with stew and an apple pie. This year, my daughter-in-law came over to watch me make the apple pie as she is planning on making one when she goes to her family in Seattle for Thanksgiving. We will be having a repeat of apple pie baking this month because the truth of the matter is you can show someone how to bake a pie, but you really learn how make a pie by doing it. And that's the gift Aunt Edith gave me: She let me know baking a pie was as easy as, well, pie and that I could do it. 

There's a scene in the movie Michael, where the characters are gathered in a diner eating all the different types of pie offered and discussing why pie speaks to us. It's one of my favorite movie scenes as it speaks to me about what pie means to me. Pie can be an art form, but it is also the most basic, homely of desserts.

"Pie. Pie. Me oh my. I love pie."

*I could be mistaken about this and I really should ask my cousins if that was really the case.

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