I made an apple pie today to thank my husband for helping me with my website. I made the dough from scratch, as always. This dough is so flaky and thin, it's worth all the anxiety I feel when I begin to roll it out. In fifteen years of making this pie, I’ve rarely achieved a perfect circle. The first few times my dough was shaped like Texas, then it began to look like Australia, once when I used very old shortening the dough broke off into little sections resembling the Philippine Islands. Once my daughter said, “Mom, it looks just like Lebanon,” the shape of which didn’t instantly jump to mind. Pie making and geography have always been linked for me.
I learned how to make this pie from a friend in Connecticut. Eugenia had been in a bad accident and lived with chronic pain. Sometimes I could see the pain she carried etched across her face. But when she made a pie, she was happy. It takes forever to make an apple pie from scratch, and whenever I do it I feel like I should be wearing a gingham apron and looking out over the back forty watching for Pa to come in from the fields. My husband came up from his office where he’d been building databases for his clients. His hands weren’t dirty from working the soil, but his back was sore. He saw the pie just out of the oven. His eyes got moist.
That’s the thing about a pie — it harkens you back to another time; it calls you to sit down at the table with a big glass of milk and dig in. It’s not like a cake, and don’t get me wrong, I love cake–but a pie requires more of you — more of your focus, more of your day, more of your emotions. You can’t scarf down a piece of pie down standing by the sink or tuck it in a napkin and take it to your room. That’s messing with the rules of heritage. A piece of pie has to be eaten at a table; you need to give yourself to the experience.
My daughter is a fine cook and for years I kept offering to teach her how to make a fruit pie. “I’m not ready yet,” she’d say. I suppose it was because she’d been an eyewitness to my dough angst. But this summer my daughter and I made two pies together – cherry and blueberry. From the first roll of her pin, the dough seemed to obey under Jean’s hands. We had to step over Max my puppy who loves to stretch out in the middle of the kitchen floor and look so cute you just can’t help but give him treats and rub his stomach. It was one of those blessed afternoons that you want to seal up in plastic and keep forever.
Eugenia died many years ago, but this is what she gave me. And every time I make a pie I remember the night I sat in her kitchen and she wouldn’t let me leave until I got it right. I got home that night at 1 AM proudly toting my first apple pie. I don’t think we fully understand the power that’s released when we take the time to share something we love.