Few things in life are as instantly gratifying as eating pie, especially when served with a freshly brewed pot of coffee. My mother used to make a cream cheese pineapple pie that was fabulous and for many years after she died, my girlfriend would make me one for my birthday. I was always touched by her thoughtfulness. Over the years, I have asked my FB friends what would be considered their favorite pie. Blueberry, pumpkin, pecan, strawberry rhubarb, lemon meringue. One friend related that his wife’s strawberry rhubarb dripped on the pumpkin pie as they were being baked at the same time. It was so delicious, she now makes it by special order! A couple of friends said as long as it looked like a pie, they didn’t have a preference as to flavor or design.
As the fair season approaches, my thoughts are of types of baked goods you may find at an agricultural fair which has been proudly displayed by 4-H members, Granges, baking contest winners, community members vying for a coveted ribbon or two. There are baked goods arranged on display for purchasing. I know I have a difficult time to pass up stopping at each vendor to sample the delicacies being offered. Pies, however, are the hardest to ignore.
One of the best things I love about exploring food and talking about food is the visits I have for memories. For instance, I craved lemon meringue pie when I was pregnant. I was too impatient to make one so I’d go to the store to buy a frozen Mrs. Smith’s (actually, I’d send my thoughtful, non-pregnant, knew-it-was-in-his-best-interest husband to the store). Thawing directions were a joke! Who had time to wait! I’d eat it right out of the plate! Today, I would probably think longer about that purchase in consideration of the many chemicals now added, but then again, when you’re pregnant, sensibility often goes right out the window!
Mostly when I think pie, I think of my mother. She was all about baking and starting about Halloween time, she’d put on her apron and not take it off until New Year’s! Every room in the house filled with her baking. Even the piece of furniture that housed her sewing machine closed up and was laden with baked goods. It’s not like there would be any sewing done! One year my niece and I fought over who would get the cream cheese pie. (There were only a few years between us as her father was much older than I). After that, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, my mother would make each family member his or her own pie. We were a family of two boys and two girls. We were each married and had children. Skip the math! It was a lot of pie.
The last time my mother made pies, she had just had her seventh heart attack. We all knew she probably wouldn’t be around for another round of pie making, so perhaps, that makes this memory all the more poignant. She had signed out of the hospital against her doctor’s wishes, but with my blessing as I knew she was determined to be at home and baking and would, therefore, be happier. My mother was 83 and my opinion was that if she were going to die, she should die happy doing what made her the happiest. Baking for her family did just that. To this day, my children often come home and say “Mmmm. Smells like Gramma’s house!”
Now that I really think about it, I can even remember her asking one year at Thanksgiving what pie we wanted and of course, we all requested our usual. “No one wants something different this year?” I’m not sure if she was disappointed in our response, or secretly flattered. That’s what it is about baked goods – fairs, holiday or otherwise; whether it’s pies or some other favorite. It isn’t whether it’s from scratch or bought at a bakery that is important. It’s that it came from someone who took the time to care. It’s that the giving wraps up tradition and thoughtfulness. A small slice of life that you can count on to keep on giving, long after the giver is gone.