All things pie
Every Sunday morning we woke to the gorgeous aroma of my mother’s freshly baked traditional Irish brown bread, scones, and apple pie. We’d lie there in bed anticpating how we would have the scones, still warm from the oven with homemade jam for our breakfast, the apple pie for dessert after Sunday lunch, and the brown bread for our tea in the evening.
I am grateful to Nancy for bringing such happy memories to my mind today and her admission of lacking “a light hand” when it comes to pastry making is my frustration too, as I have tried and failed to reproduce my own mother’s melt in the mouth pastry. So, from one little corner of Ireland to another corner of the world in Houston, thoughts of pie uniting us, it’s over to Nancy.
It’s a blustery, cool day in Houston with a cloud-filled sky that can’t decide if it’s slate blue or baby blue. One minute it looks decidedly baby blue, then the gusty winds shift and it’s a more melancholy slate blue. Regardless of the color of the sky, it feels like fall — finally — and after a summer of record-breaking temperatures and Biblically-proportioned drought, fall is most welcome.
The changing weather and the prelude to the holiday season has got me thinking about one thing, and one thing only: pie. I come from a long line of master pie people. My mom grew up on a farm, where the eggs for a cream pie filling were collected straight from the source, still warm. She could make pie crust “in a jiffy,” as she would say, and made it look easy. Her older brother, my sweet Uncle Wilford, used to say he liked two kinds of pie: hot and cold. We are pie people.
The art of homemade pie crust eludes me. I try to get it right, and my efforts have improved over the years, but I have yet to achieve the “jiffy” style pie-making of my mom. My version of her pie crust tastes good, but it’s not so pretty. In fact, the last time I made a cherry pie, as it came out of the oven my first thought was that it looked like it had been dropped from the top of a very tall building. It smelled divine, but it was ugly. My sweet mama used to tell me I needed to “use a light hand” when rolling the crust and forming it into the pie pan. Every time I’ve attempted to make a pie in the 6 years she’s been gone, I hear her saying that. I try to channel her farm-girl ease with all things pastry, but I’ve yet to perfect the technique.
No matter, as I’ve learned that people will happily devour an ugly yet tasty pie just as readily as a picture-perfect version. According to seriouseats.com, the most popular pies in America are apple, pumpkin, chocolate cream, cherry, and pecan. I’m shocked and saddened that my favorite, coconut cream, is nowhere on the list. Oh well, guess that means more for me!
Statistics abound about the beloved pie, provided by none other than the APC (American Pie Council). Wonder what it takes to get elected to that governing body? Some of the more interesting stats the APC compiles: 6 million American men have eaten the last slice of pie and denied it. 113 million Americans have eaten pie for breakfast; one-third of Americans have eaten pie in bed — coincidence? I think not. Half of all pie-eaters prefer their slice unadorned as opposed to topped with whipped cream or nestled next to a scoop of ice cream. A whopping 7 percent of Americans have tried to pass their store-bought pie off as homemade. Good luck with that. And nearly 1 in 4 women believe their pie is better than that made by their mom or grandma. Huh.
According to the APC, pie-eaters identify strongly with their favorite flavors. People who love pumpkin pie describe themselves as funny and independent, while pecan pie people say they are thoughtful and analytical. If apple pie is your thing, you’re said to be independent, realistic, and compassionate. Those who gravitate toward chocolate cream pie are loving.
Not everyone loves pie, though, regardless of how independent or thoughtful. In the mid-1600s, English rebel Oliver Cromwell banned the eating of pie, which he considered a guilty, forbidden pleasure. Thankfully, King Charles II righted this grave injustice when he and the Restoration leaders booted Cromwell in 1660.
All hail Charles II and the return of pie! And happy fall, y’all!