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Not in a Box!

We were honored to be invited to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the family of a couple who live in the same condominium complex where we winter. I was assured I needn’t bring anything, but being a midwest gal with midwest values, I know it’s uncouth to show up empty-handed. I took stock of the raw ingredients at my disposal—apples, flour, sugar, butter, all the basics for a pie.

Presenting a homemade pie to people you’ve just met can be presumptuous. What I know, however, is fewer and fewer people have eaten a genuine homemade pie. Pie making is an art and a triumph—if it comes out right. The trouble is, a crust can take on the texture of shoe leather if not coddled like an Ivy-league, freshman coed. It can also crumble into an unrecognizable heap of lumpy dough, refuse to yield to all attempts at fluting (I don’t mean the instrument), or stand up like a beer belly in a recliner when the fruit cooks down. (This happens particularly with apple pie.)

At home in Michigan, I have a kitchen scale, a good pastry cutter, a pastry cloth, a pie crust shield and a special sheet that catches spill overs. Here in Florida, I have none of those handy helpers. None-the-less, I bravely set forth. The results were not Martha Steward perfect, but acceptable. The pie actually looked pretty darn good and smelled delicious.

In we walked to our hosts’ house with a couple bottles of wine in hand, and the pie. “Oh, you brought a pie!” was the exclamation. I explained it was made from apples we grew. That brought wide-eyed reactions. “And you made the crust?” When I assured my hosts I had made the entire dessert from scratch, they seemed even more amazed. Then I was told the man of the house was very picky about apple pie. As in, “I don’t like hard apples” kind of picky. (Not in a box, not with a fox, I will not eat the pie, I will not like it, I will not lie. At least it wasn't green.) I assured him the apples were soft and not crunchy. This was met with skepticism if not out-right incredulity. Everyone in the family agreed that DAD was VERY PICKY about apple pie. The challenge was before me. Truthfully, I was a little nervous.

I knew exactly what he objected to, the wretched commercial apple pies made from northern spy apples which are a miserable choice. The reason they are used is utility - they stand up to abuse and keep well for long periods of time. Nothing, however, can compare with a pie made from a combination of macintosh, golden delicious and cortland apples. Our cortland tree bit the dust, thanks to the mice that girdled it last winter, but I still had the macintosh and golden delicious apples picked a month earlier, brought all the way from Michigan to Florida.

Dinner was eaten and soon enough it was time for dessert. Dad was game and took a slice of pie. In anxious anticipation, we all awaited his thumb to go up--or down. The first bite. A second bite. A smile. The first piece demolished and a second one taken! He approved! Dad doesn’t like apple pies, but he liked my apple pie. I beamed in triumph. It was, indeed, delicious. We left with an empty pie plate and the assurance dad would be eating pie for breakfast.

Making a pie from scratch is not easy, but the results are oh, so worth it! I’d rather eat pie than cake or cookies any day. My own father’s favorite was apple pie with raisins and walnuts which my mother made to perfection. If I’d had raisins or walnuts, I might have added them, but I did put in a ‘secret’ ingredient. (Which, if anyone is curious, I will reveal on my linked Fb page!)

Even as I wrote this, the Wall Street Journal printed an article about the art and appreciation of pie making. Hmm. Seems a pie that does not come out of a box is the topic de jour. It’s nice to be in good company!

A homemade blueberry pie - ahhhh.

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