Pie is a Guilt Free Food

Pie (photo by Rebekah Denn)

Are there foods that should be guilt free…special foods and dishes that we should simply enjoy? That’s a conversation I had with Tom Douglas recently.

When it is pie, I definitely think so. Tom agreed.

When it is a homemade pie, I don’t think there’s even a question.

Pie, one made from scratch, takes some time.

PAN: Start with a pie pan or plate that has family history if you have one. In my classes we look at and admire all pans that are laid on the counter. New ones, old ones, brightly colored ones, dented ones, ceramic ones, metal ones, clear glass ones now opaque and scratched from use. If you are lucky enough to have your great-grandmother’s pan, use it. Keep these memories alive and create some of your own.

BOWL: Next get out your bowl. Some bring bowls that have been in a family for decades, like Doug’s. I’ve got quite a collection, many of which are from yard sales. I try to get the story along with the bowl or atleast the name of the person who it belonged to.

CUP: I use a cup from my cupboard for measuring. It didn’t have a history, at least for me, when I found it but after years of measuring with it, it’s become part of my pie making ritual. There are no measuring marks on it but I know when the amount of flour or sugar looks and feels to be about right after a few hundred pies. And, besides that, I like the way it looks.

APRON: Oh, yah, aprons. I’ve seem some beauties pass through my door. Today, one baker had on her Grandmother Ina’s. It was soft and worn; an old friend for Ina and now for her grand-daughter.

My current favorite is one I picked up at a 24-hour market late at night when I pulled off the road to pick up some groceries on my way home after a class. It’s pink, has a pocket with a bow on one side and a few ruffles on the bottom. When I saw it I immediately loved it. I wear it whenever I make pie.

FRUIT: I use the best tasting, most flavorful fruit I can get. That means sourcing locally for me.  I go to my Farmer’s Markets or, when I can, directly to the farms themselves. I taste the fruit and if it’s got flavor I’m all over it, buying cases for classes. Whatever is left at the week’s end, get’s chopped up, put in marked freezer bags and popped into the deep chest-freezer in my garage. I feel like a wealthy woman when I look inside in mid-winter at bags full of rhubarb, pie cherries and berries that will remind me of the long lingering high summer days when they were picked.

DOUGH: Our doughs are made with foil wrapped high-fat butter and freshly rendered leaf lard. Just enough water is added giving it a sort of play-dough feeling and we do play with our doughs as we pat and roll them into discs that slip into our pans. When one goes in, sometimes I think I hear a sigh from the pan, as if it had been waiting for just that moment.

FILLING: We make our fillings with care and tell our stories as we chop apples or rhubarb, pit cherries or slice lemons. The stories become an intangible ingredient but one that is felt and tasted with the heart.

When all has been seasoned with fresh spices, we turn the fragrant fruit filling into the pan and carefully cover it with a blanket of dough that will become it’s upper crust.

VENTS: After cutting a few vents (a pie maker’s signature) we paint them with an egg white wash like a 4-year-old would on a new clean sheet of art paper. A final sprinkle of sugar on the top is like a sweet fairy blessing.

BAKING: By the time it goes into a hot oven, each one of us feels we know well our individual pie. As they bake, we anticipate the beautiful homemade golden brown crust and smell the bubbling fruit-filling steaming through creatively placed vents…some on top, some around the sides. All unique.

Apple Pie (Photo by Rebekah Denn)

Now, why would anyone think that pie could ever be a food associated with guilt, as in calories, fat and carbohydrates, when it is made with so much care and love? Sure the calories, etc. are there, but in my opinion, they are far outweighed by memory, companionship, family, smiles, laughter and that umm-yummy sound one hears while sharing a still warm homemade pie at the table with loved ones.

Feel guilty about something else, but not pie. It’s a guilt free food.

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