I’ve always wanted to be an artist; you know, paint, draw, or make jewelry.
Especially during the pandemic, I needed to get rid of my stress and I wanted needed something to do with my hands besides write. I remember my mother wonderful baking pies; she wasn’t much of a cook, but she sure could bake. She made perfectly round pie crusts and used every fruit on grandpa’s farm in her pies. With 4 different kinds of apples, each apple pie had its own distinct flavor. In my opinion, Granny Smith apples are the best because of their tart flavor.
One morning I woke up and decided it was time to bake that pie. How hard can it be?
I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond, bought a pie shield, so the crust wouldn’t burn, several tins, and borrowed a rolling pin from my neighbor Mac and went home to try my luck. How hard could this be? Mac is a terrific cook and gave me the best piece of advice. “Remember, pie baking is about chemistry, you have to follow the recipe.” I guess you just can’t add more garlic!
What pie is your favorite?
My absolute favorite is strawberry rhubarb; I think this was my mom’s favorite also. I found a recipe online and bought all the ingredients for the crust and the filling. I rolled out the crust and before my eyes it fell apart. I tried again to roll it in a ball, add water (which isn’t good, vodka is better) and rolled it out. Now it was sticky. I couldn’t make the crust thin enough and now it was lumpy. How did mom do it?
My first pie, burned on the edges, I forgot the shield, and had a crust like wallpaper paste or maybe grout. (For those of you in the flooring business!) Everyone was kind; they probably threw the crust out and ate the filling. (Which was scrumptious by the way!)
The more I baked, the more adventuresome I became. I loved the way the pies smelled while the filling was bubbling. I made pie after pie; and tried my hand at fancy crusts.
And then the rhubarb ran out!
I think it was 18 pies for the summer until the rhubarb ran out! Then I planted a dozen plants in my garden for next year. Strawberries were out because the squirrels always devoured them before I got there. Every week I would buy enough fruit to make a pie which I shared with the neighbors. If I didn’t give them away, I would have eaten all of them!
I was becoming obsessed with pie making. I bought cut out designs, cans of filling, all kinds of sugar and on and on. Again, Mac, aware of my obsessions, said he bought me exactly what I needed for my pie making—an old Hoosier cabinet. The cabinet even has an old flour bin on the left! By the way, a Hoosier cabinet (also known as a “Hoosier”) is a type of cupboard or free-standing kitchen cabinet that also serves as a workstation. It was popular in the first few decades of the 20th century in the United States since most houses did not have built-in kitchen cabinetry. At this point, it is stacked full of cans of fruit, spices, nuts, and even almond paste. I’ll use the almond paste for something.
I can’t explain the satisfaction; the great smells, mixing the dough, finding a design for the top. And the warm feeling of sharing my pies with friends, neighbors, business acquaintances, anyone who will enjoy them, really.