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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