I apol­o­gize in ad­vance for brag­ging, some­thing I do here on­ly rarely. But my Mom taught me to make pie and now I make pies. It’s a beau­ti­ful thing, and there are lessons to be had.

I’ve made two in fac­t. Here’s the first, with Gran­ny Smith ap­ples in­sid­e.

Apple pie by T. Bray

If you want the recipe, just roll the blog clock back a decade to Au­gust 2006, when I record­ed my mother’s nar­ra­tion. A lot of wis­dom packed in­to six min­utes or so of lousy but ap­peal­ing au­dio.

We vis­it­ed her again this spring and I took a more in­tense les­son with hands-on and co­pi­ous tex­tu­al notes.

The sec­ond pie was rhubarb from our own back yard; I cranked up the sug­ar a bit be­cause rhubar­b; for­tu­nate­ly not too much and it was still tart. Here’s a piece; the pic­ture sug­gests the fla­vor sen­sa­tion:

A piece of rhubarb pie

The col­or is be­cause I in­ad­ver­tent­ly pur­chased “golden” rather than reg­u­lar Crisco. I’ve been told that pie crust is bet­ter with re­al ac­tu­al lard, but I wouldn’t know how to buy that.

Pie sup­plies · You need equip­ment and tech­nique to make pie. Specif­i­cal­ly, a pas­try cloth and dough blender. The first pro­vides a sur­face to roll the crust out on, and then you use it to flip the crust over the rolling pin so you can un­flip it in­to the pie pan.

As for tech­niques, two stand out. First, mix­ing up the flour and Crisco in­to the right crumbly con­sis­ten­cy. My notes say “Dig, don’t mash, longtitudinally” and you def­i­nite­ly have to twist the wrist. I’m sure there are YouTube videos, or you could ask for an in­tro to my Mom, who can show you. It’s what the dough blender is for; here’s ours.

Dough blender

Se­cond, there’s that busi­ness of flip­ping and un­flip­ping and rolling pins and pie pan­s. The bad news is, it’s hard. The good news is, when (not if) you mis­s, you can ma­neu­ver the crust around and re­pair any dam­age pret­ty straight­for­ward­ly with left­over dough and a bit of wa­ter to make it stick­y. I should men­tion that my Mom doesn’t mis­s, she drops the bot­tom and top crusts on dead cen­ter ev­ery time. Maybe when I’m 86 I’ll be able to do that too.

What are you proud of? · Some­one asked me that not too long ago, and while I have this high­ly vis­i­ble geek per­son­a, on that front I al­ways feel like I’m stum­bling in the dark push­ing through cob­web­s, ben­e­fit­ing un­fair­ly from mul­ti­di­men­sion­al good luck, strain­ing at the edges of what I can un­der­stand, ask­ing peo­ple to ex­plain things over and over. Im­poster syn­drome? Yeah, but ex­treme cyn­i­cis­m, plus sus­pi­cion of any­one who sounds over-confident, are su­per help­ful.

So I’ll tell you what I’m proud of: Be­ing a func­tion­al do­mes­tic adult. I can con­jure up an OK din­ner for the fam­i­ly from what­ev­er catch­es my eye in the gro­cery on the way home, and have it on the ta­ble pret­ty damn quick af­ter I come in the door. I can iron a shirt and calm a ba­by and clean a kitchen and prune a shrub and chain­saw fire­wood, then split it. I can un­tan­gle a ten-year-old’s hair af­ter she’s been on the tram­po­line.

I’ve got a kid in­side my head who’s in awe of my awe­some mas­tery of these grown-up mys­ter­ies.

On top of which, I can now make pie. It’s the op­po­site of im­poster syn­drome, and it’s re­al­ly OK, I think.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: George M (Jun 16 2017, at 02:11)

Lovely. Don't shy away from further philosophical foodyism.


From: Doug K (Jun 16 2017, at 14:48)

"I can now make pie."

which makes people happy and nourishes them.. a high-order skill in my book ;-)

Both my sons have been taught to cook and not fear the kitchen..

never doubted I could function domestically, was taking care of animals and helping fix the machines from an early age. I am still astonished that I have been able to earn a living all these years, though. Every day wake up wondering if today's the day my paid job goes away..


From: Matthieu Riou (Jun 16 2017, at 22:05)

Crisco? Do yourself a favor and try butter. Please. With all due respect to your mother (my grandma has been known to use margarine).

But please. Butter. But-ter.


From: Johan (Jun 17 2017, at 19:24)

I'll vouch for the excellence of lard in pastry. Dough made with lard is a joy to roll out; you don't even have to chill it. In Canada (at least in Ontario) Tenderflake lard is readily available. Sold in a pound box in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. In California lard can usually be found in the Mexican food section of grocery stores.

I'm delighted to be once again living in a climate where I can grow rhubarb in the back yard! No rhubarb (or tulips) in Silicon Valley.


From: John Cowan (Jul 20 2017, at 15:36)

All Gaul is divided into three parts: the part that cooks with lard and goose fat, the part that cooks with olive oil, and the part that cooks with butter.

—David Chessler


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