Friday, January 22, 2010

Day #16 — Pie

Today's writing prompt — well, really yesterday's prompt, if you've been following — is pie. Pie! Thanks to Lisa Romeo for her daily prompts.

Prompt: Pie

Birthdays = cake and ice cream. Right? It's tradition. It's the candles and the song and the fanfare and making wishes and blowing hard, with the lights dimmed and everyone clapping. But I don't like cake — or at least I don't like most cake. A good carrot cake with homemade cream cheese icing (or is it frosting) may be an exception. This was our wedding cake, though, so it doesn't have any birthday connotations for me.

I like ice cream just fine. In fact, I like ice cream just a little too much, if you know what I mean. But the sweet I really crave for my annual celebration is a birthday pie. Peach pie, to be specific. This tends to be a little problematic, since my birthday is in late September, several weeks past the end of peach season. So to produce a really good peach pie for my birthday, I need to plan ahead and freeze some of those juicy fruits when they are at their peak.

I don't know when I developed such a taste for pie. I don't remember loving it as a kid and I hate when the crust is overcooked. I do remember baking pies with my grandmother. She wasn't really a very good cook, coming from the school of thought that you started cooking Thanksgiving dinner at 5:30 in the morning and cooked everything all day long until one dish was virtually unrecognizable from the next and, often, barely recognizable as food.

But the woman made a mean pie crust (and great pierogi, but that's another story). I remember watching her put the crust together by hand, cutting the cold butter into the flour and working without a recipe. Pie crust is touchy. Even though there are only a few ingredients (mostly butter and flour, and maybe a little ice water or cold milk and some salt), a good crust is very dependent on ambient conditions, such as temperature and humidity — and good pie crust bakers put their dough together according to feel.

My grandma would line her pie tins, and then cut off the excess crust and give it to my cousin and me to make little tarts. First we would eat half of it, and then would knead and roll it practically to death, so that by the time we got it into the tart pans it was as tough as leather. Still, it was much more fun than Play Dough, because we were really cooking.

I don't remember eating very many of my grandmother's pies. Maybe we only baked together a few times, but those experiences provided powerful memories.

The best pie I ever made was a pear pie with cranberries. It was just beautiful. It took me a long time to get the crust thing down. Finally, I learned to follow the multi-step directions in the Joy of Cooking. If you follow their recipe exactly, your pie will be perfect every time.

Personally, I prefer a good fruit pie. Lemon meringue may look beautiful, but it just isn't as good to eat. Key lime pie is great, but the graham cracker crust puts it into a different category all together. Some like custard pies, like French Silk or banana cream. Fair enough, but give me a peach pie or a sour cherry pie (yum!) or blueberry (third choice), apple or even raspberry pie any day over those cream pies, thank you very much.

Time: 11 minutes

This piece could definitely be worked into a Two Kinds of People post. I'll have to keep it in mind. It might also be part of a memoir-type of essay. I see quite a few possibilities here. The writing seems particularly disjointed to me. Perhaps because there are so many possibilities, I had trouble picking a path and sticking to it. No worries, though. That's what SFDs are for.

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