Yesterday, I made two apple pies. One to bring to a potluck and one to share today with our friends Paul and Judy. To me, there is something very satisfying about making pies, especially apple.
First there is the peeling and slicing of the apples. Into a big bowl they go, and I stir in the sugar and spices.
Second there is the dough—the cutting, the mixing, the rolling out. By the time I am done there is a grand explosion of flour, a glorious mess, and why this gives me so much pleasure I cannot say. (I do want to note that this sort of mess did not give my Franco-American mother any pleasure at all, and her way of dealing with my messy habits was to leave the kitchen and read while I was cooking.)
Then there is the filling of the pie—in this case with fresh Maine apples. My favorite part is the crimping of the edges. I love pinching that dough. Finally, I cut a the hole in the middle of the pie, a trick my mother and I learned from Addie O’Keefe, a neighbor of ours in North Vassalboro. Lord, that woman could cook, can, and make preserves. Addie took my mother, a “city” girl, under her wing and taught her what she needed to know about living in the country.
From time to time, I think of Addie’s generosity. She was not a young woman, and she had her own big house and gardens to take care of. However, Addie found the time to teach my mother practical country skills. In turn, when Addie was dying, my mother sat by her side and held her hand. The wheel of generosity turned from Addie to my mother.
But back to pie, specifically apple pie. Its next gift is the lovely smell when it cooks, the bubbling of apple, the mingling of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Someone coming to the house, upon opening the door, would immediately know that apple pies were baking.
After all the mess, all the fuss, there is—ta dah!—the baked pie with its brown, flaky crust and tangy apple filling.
M.F.K Fisher, the great food writer, thought that food was much more than a way to nourish the body. It also nourished the soul and expressed a variety of emotions, depending on the cook and the eater. How right she was.
And how evocative something as simple as an apple pie can be, taking me back to my childhood, reminding me of generosity.