Thursday, October 29, 2020

Easy as Pie

 I didn't fall asleep last night until well after 3 AM. Out of relief for my daughter and her husband, I suppose. My mind was racing off in a million directions as my mind tends to do when something that has been preoccupying my thoughts for an inordinate length of time simply resolves itself. Deprived of that line of thinking, my mind begins to cast about for a new preoccupation. I imagine it will be like that once the election is done too. It took me forever to fall asleep.

I figured that I would sleep late, but I did not. I seem to wake up between 7:30 and 8:00 no matter what. After years of getting up at 4:30, I guess that is sleeping in.

I was up. I had my cappuccino. Despite the caffeine, I was no ball of energy though. It was going to be a long day. 

As I took my cup back to the kitchen, my eye fell on a bag of apples that Tim brought from the retirement property. They were small and not very impressive looking, but Tim loved their flavor. Baking is a good low energy activity. I began to peel those little apples, thinking that I'd have enough to make an apple crisp. But as I pared, it became evident that I would have enough to make an apple pie. 

I'm going to tell you a shocking secret about me. I use premade pie crusts. I have to. I can't make pie crust. 

It was not always like this. 

My first Thanksgiving away from home, I showed up to the family dinner with two pies. My mother was tickled pink because in all her years, she was never happy with her pie crusts. In her mind, they were tough. My pie crusts were flakey. She couldn't stop marveling over them. For the next couple years, I was the designated pie maker, because I "had the knack". 

Then I joined the army, and was away for 7 years. When I returned home, I made my first pies for some holiday, and...they were 'tough'. They were not flakey. Everyone agreed. Seems like you can lose your knack if you don't use your knack, and, knick knack paddy whack, my knack was a thing of the past. 

I was a little disappointed about that, but I accepted this new knowledge, and from then on I bought frozen pie crusts. Kept them in the freezer. If I needed a pie, it was easy enough to put one together. 

Today, I had grabbed my mom's old bowl out of the cupboard. I didn't even think of it. It was a homely thing, chipped and crazed, FireKing.  She used it to bake rice pudding in. She used it for raising her bread dough. Now it was filled with apples and there was plenty in there for a pie. 

Except... I had no pie crust in the freezer. 

Tim's pretty easy going and he doesn't criticize my cooking. He loved those apples so much, he'd be pleased to see them used. And...he does love pie. The pie might not be perfect, but he would not complain. 

I got out my books and I began to make the pie crust from scratch. I cut the shortening into the flour with the old wooden handled pastry blender. I knew exactly when it was time to begin adding  the cold water, tablespoon by tablespoon, and once again, I knew exactly when I'd added enough water.  I divided the pastry into two balls. I deftly rolled out one of them. I folded it over the rolling pin and lifted it over to the pie pan, tucking the pastry down inside the pan. I could tell that it was right, but I can't tell you what is was that made me so sure. I turned the apples into the pie crust, heavy with cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla. I rolled out the second ball of dough and laid it across the pie. 

I picked up the pie pan and the knife and trimmed that pastry,  rolled the bottom and top crusts together and then pinched the edges of the crust all around the pie in the decorative way my mother had showed me all those years ago. I picked up the sharp knife once again, and pierced the same leaf design in the top of the pie to vent the steam from the cooking apples. 

It was done. I put the pie in the preheated oven and cleaned up my mess. I put the flour and sugar canisters back into the Hoosier and rolled down the top. My mom had a hoosier cabinet. I'd forgotten. Hers was white. It makes me laugh to remember: It was a point of pride for them to get rid of their old furniture. Now there's me, on the lookout for the same old stuff that they were so glad to be rid of. The old painted banjo clock sweetly tinged the hour. My orange cat watched me quietly from the rug in front of the door. 

My mom has been gone for 11 years now. Things were not good between us. I guess I lost the knack of that, as well. But for an hour, on a cold, gray, drizzling afternoon, I worked side by side with her once again, using the old tools that she had used throughout her own years.

When the pie came out of the oven, I could tell that my knack was back.


  1. I've recently made a few pie crusts from scratch, but it was difficult. The results were....okay. I guess I should keep trying.

  2. I do both. If it is for family or for people we care about, I make crusts from scratch. If it is just going to a fundraising event, which seems to be where the majority of my pies go, it is crust from a box from the freezer, especially if it is a one crust kind of pie.

    Oddly enough, my knack for making crusts from scratch comes and goes. Some are way better than others. I've always thought it might be the brand of butter I'm using so I try to be consistent. Ever once in awhile I will buy lard and use that for those special occasions. It is hard to go wrong with lard.

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  4. I used unsalted butter today. I have used lard before, ed.That crust was a nice one. Jennifer, I think that mixing is big. Do you have a pastry blender?

    1. I'm embarrassed to say I'm not totally sure what a pastry blender is. I cut ice cold butter into tiny pieces and blend it into the flour with a fork.

  5. Glad you got your knack back!

    I made several pear pies this summer. I use flour, salt, cold water, and canola oil. Comes out flaky and tender and the best part is that I can eat it since there's nothing animal related in it!

  6. Debby, what a wonderful & touching story! My mom has been gone 12 years and we did not get along either. I like her much better in my memories than I did in real life... which is part her fault but then part mine too. I'm glad you found your knack once again... and that your mom was baking "with you". ~Andrea xoxo

  7. Good to get back to pie making. Cold ingredients and bowl,cold hands (or a fork!)and another trick..if you have thought ahead enough, make it a little wetter, wrap it and instead of giving it half an hour's rest before using, rest it overnight.
    It is sad not to get on with one's mother. I had the misfortune of having a bully as a mum.. thankfully I got on with grandma who taught me all sorts of skills in house and well as philosophy!
    Nice to meet you!

  8. I totally hear you when it comes to getting up. Being an Air Force Veteran, it doesn't matter what time I go to bed, I still get up between 4am and 6am. So I do all my stuff in the morning and by 2:30pm, I'm all in for a nap.(lol) Yay to you for having the skill set and patience to make a pie from scratch. Despite being a foodie, baking is definitely NOT my forte, but I don't mind coming over to your place for a treat, please.(lol) I hope all is well, and love that you peeked in to say hello! Hugs, RO

  9. Humidity is another great excuse - I use it all the time!

    Glad you got the pie mojo back - and hooray for the good news in the previous post.

  10. You write well and make baking a pie seem very interesting. I do love apple pie, but make it we do not. I can picture you pinching the crust the way that my mother used to do.

  11. Oh gosh! I’ve never made a pie crust. I leave that for my husband who does get compliments for it. I love the idea of your mom next to you in spirit. I believe she really is. Congratulations on your wonderful pie.
    You and I have the same sleep problem. Sigh...


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