I didn’t always make pies. Up until about ten years ago, the thought of making a pie from scratch did not appeal to me. In fact, up to that point of my life, any and all pie-making efforts had been stressful. (Picture someone trying to teach me to make a pie, then hitting me with the rolling pin when I did something wrong.) (That didn’t really happen, but it gives you a sense of the emotional landscape that existed in my mind surrounding pie-making.)
In those years, Dean would periodically ask me (almost beg me) to make a pie, and on some level I felt terrible about not being able, or willing, to make a proper pie.
Then one day when Cam was very small and no-one was asking me to make a pie, I opened a drawer in my kitchen, found a mini-tub of stale Crisco, and proceeded to make a pie. I don’t quite remember what was in the filling; it must have been some apples I had on hand. But somehow, that day, the pie-making process had been transformed. The previously mysterious and uncooperative raw crust became pliable, and if not completely cooperative, at least somewhat playful. The pie came out beautiful. I could not believe my eyes. Since it was not evident to anyone that I had used stale Crisco, I fed the pie to Dean that night. He loved it. I then admitted it was made with stale Crisco. He did not care. And so the beginning of the pie-making period of my life began.
At first I was making at least one pie a month. After several months, Dean told me I could slow down. I told him I was unconsciously trying to make up for all the pie-less years.
I tend to be a little extreme at times.
When I was team parent of Cam’s hockey team a few years ago, I took it upon myself to make the cake for the season-end team party. I spent about ten hours working on it, and that is not an exaggeration. I could not have made it without a great deal of assistance from my culinary EXPERT (and all around wise-woman) friend Liz Bunker. But I could not help thinking at the time, especially about five hours in, “I think I may have overreached.”
Turns out, when you make these sorts of large, odd-shaped cakes, you end up cutting lots of smaller cakes and sticking them together. It’s optimal to keep the pieces as large as possible, as I found out with my subsequent attempt at “fancy-cake” decorating. I had quite a few smaller pieces of leftover Hockey Cake in the freezer, and did not have the heart to discard them. So, I got cocky, and thought I could use these remnants to construct another spectacular cake, which I could bring to the temple for the one time a year we were assigned to bring food for Friday Services Oneg. Well, I got the cake constructed, and despite a tremendous amount of frosting, the thing kind of imploded into thirds. I was too ashamed for anyone to see my fallen Jew-cake in public (until now, apparently), so we kept it home and ate it. (It tasted good.) For the Oneg, I stopped at a bakery in a local overpriced boutique grocery store. (Thank goodness for those local overpriced boutique grocery store bakeries!)
Who knows, maybe I’ll design a better cake, and personally make it for my son’s bar mitzvah next year. But I’d really rather not think about that just yet…..better to just reflect on some good old-fashioned pie-making, and how that seemingly insurmountable challenge was eventually overcome.