This world is full of pie (as opposed to what some other folks would say the world is full of, and it’s not a pleasant word). The world is saturated with a dizzying rainbow of crusty confections with meat, nuts, vegetables, and fruit. Who could turn down a slice of color in the form of cherry, blueberry, lemon meringue, or lime pie with a dollop of rich vanilla ice cream on top? Admit it. You love pie.
There have been moments when I allow myself the fantasy of peace through people taking time out of their busy days to join a friend and make a pie. What a lovely thought. I imagine a world where people settle conflicts by getting together to bake pies. How can a person fire a weapon when her hands are covered with dough, his face is dripping with peach juice, and there are peach pits in the middle of their tongues? Peace In Eating. Pie.
As a young girl, I learned to bake good pies after discovering that I was horrible at baking cakes. Those three-layered or square-shaped dough concoctions were too unpredictable; like people, you couldn’t control them. It didn’t matter if they were pound or angel or chocolate layered, my cakes inevitably fell in the middle or broke in half as I iced them. Worse yet, I would go to read a book and smell burned cake, a pitiful result because the cake would be inedible and Mom would be furious. My cakes and biscuits met the same fate. The biscuits were embarrassingly hard little pieces of rock that could kill a chicken with one throw. It was sad. After all, I was born to a legacy of cooks who could probably make rock soup taste like a five-star menu item.
But pie was different. I don’t know if it was the concentration and rhythm of fluting the crust, the sensuality of juicy fruit in my hands, or the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and other haunting spices. There was some mystery about pie that calmed me down, made me feel, um, competent. Maybe it was because in learning to bake pie, I learned focus and patience. I learned how to follow directions. I learned to measure, to take my time. Of course, I haven’t always fallen back on the things I learned. My life might be very different if I had.
Mom was specific about measurements. Too much flour? Put it back. Too much shortening? Take it out. Work with the dough until the flour and shortening looked like uniform grains of sand. Add water.
“No, not that much!”
Take it out quickly before you have to throw the whole lot away. Learn how to salvage the good, to manage mistakes before they become disasters (relationships). The ingredients (like relationships) were as precious as gold. Nothing could be wasted. But taking the patience to add water, drop by drop, until the dough was ready to knead was another lesson. It takes time to do something really well. Of course, I haven’t always use this lesson either. I’ve wanted things to be resolved, fixed, changed, or transformed NOW. Remembering patience, moment to moment, is a skill that must be practiced again and again–like baking pie.
Depending on the fruit–pears, apples, or peaches–I would peel the skins slowly, watching the skins form those little Shirley Temple ringlets that became the main ingredient for homemade jelly. Peach pie was my favorite. With the juice flowing between my fingers, I used precious moments to suck on the pits. Making a pie was focused work. Sucking on peach pits was my reward.
Today, I still love to bake pies and, somewhere along the years, I have learned to bake decent cakes. Cakes require the same focus and patience. I’ve added a variation to my baking. I have learned to bake vegan, and I do not add dairy or eggs to my cakes. I no longer use shortening in my pies, and I’ve added fruits that we didn’t use when I was growing up. Mango gives me larger and juicier seeds to suck on. But the lessons remain. There is still a mystery in baking. Time stands still. I can live in the moment. I can learn patience.
The other day a friend and I got into a fight. I was very upset. I felt like I wasn’t being heard, and my friend felt attacked. It was ugly. After spreading fury through my apartment, I asked myself the usual question. What could I have done differently? I talked to a couple of close friends and my sister. After all the guidance (and evidence of my impatience) was gathered, I sat down to write about it. I came up with the understanding that I was wrong. I apologized.
Now, I am on my way to the kitchen to bake a vegetable pot pie. Have a marvelous week. Words, like pies, have delicious color.