When I read that post, its remnants sticking to my mind through every one of five hours of punching, sifting, salting, sugaring, and rolling, it feels like I wrote it yesterday. About a time that must have been a million years from today.
This is what a pie is: Something you search for. You don’t settle for the red-and-white cookbook recipe. You listen to your grandmother’s whispers and buy the best flour. You find the words straight from a famous chef’s mouth and shape them into your own, one melted-butter beating at a time. You might have to freeze that pastry for ten minutes or pound it till it listens, but that smooth stretch over nine inches of glass, your daughters laying out lattice and shaping a thumb-and-pinkie catch? Nothing is more beautiful than that.
This is what a pie is: Thanksgiving. Because you clear out your everyday items on the counter to make room for its presence on your holiday table. Because you wait the whole year to spend five hours in this tiny kitchen measuring flour, slicing apples, and cooking up hand-picked, July-we-lost-you cherries (frozen and saved by your mother for this moment) to place this gratitude upon your table.
This is what a pie is: An imperfect crust. Your magazine chef keeps telling you that it should flake, not melt. That it should lie flat, not be perfectly stretched across the bottom and sides of your pie pan. That you should freeze it for two hours before you touch it. You don’t listen. You melt butter, your eight-year-old cuts diagonal lattice strips, your eleven-year-old melts the crust with her hot cherry pie mix, your ten-year-old gives up on shaping her open-topped pumpkin, which melts into a misshapen goo anyway. And yet, they still scramble for scraps to dip in cherry juice and apple-cinnamon deliciousness. So not what it should be. And so what it is.
This is what a pie is: Love. When you don’t have it to make, you long for it. When the year has passed and summer months in an un-air-conditioned home make the idea of turning on an oven for a day unbearable, you look forward to the fall. When the year rolls back around to our national holiday, your tongue lingers on the hope that its crispy, smooth, cinnamon sweetness will hold you for as long as you promised your heart. You love that pie. You admire its beauty, its ability to bring your three getting-too-big girls into your kitchen, begging to be first to make their own, to fight for their chance to pound, roll, spread.
This is what a pie is: Happiness. Baked.