Pies, Family Recipes, & Stories You Can Taste

A few months before we got married, my husband announced to me that he thought we should specialize in the kitchen: he’d take care of making the pies.

His grandpa had been the pie baker of the family at the holidays, so J thought he’d take up the tradition.

I agreed wholeheartedly with the plan, as I am a big fan of pies–fresh strawberry-gelatin pies, peach or blueberry (or, heck, any berry) pies, apple crumb pies (called “Dutch Apple” if you’re not from central PA like I am), and shoo-fly pies. Goodness, I do love pie.

I’m not, however, very picky about pie, and store-bought crusts are fine with me. There are many women I know and love–and who shall remain nameless–who simply purchase a store-bought crust and then crimp the edges with their index finger and thumb to make it look homemade. This is what I would do if I were put upon to make a pie.

Not so for him. He is very persnickity about such things. The crust must be flaky and dry, not soggy or moist or cakey. Dry. Flakey.

So he set out to learn how to make the perfect pie.

And now he does.

There are a handful of amusing stories we tell about the learning curve, including meringue that didn’t set, the lemon goop that wouldn’t set, the pies that sloshed all over our trunk while we transported to friends’ homes, those sorts of things.

And of course there was the discovery that his mother’s awe-inspiring meringue was actually the result of one-and-a-halfing the family recipe.

But now he’s got the knack.

So last week, when the men of our church were encouraged to bring a dessert for the “Men’s Bake-Off,” he made a lemon meringue pie.

I’ll tell you straight up that most people find this hard to believe. You make your own crust? they ask. From scratch?

Ah, yes, and he is so good not to take it personally. Instead, he tells them about his grandpa’s pies, about his mom’s meringue–which is really an impressive feat of gravity-defiance and tastiness–about the family recipe that might have originated on the back of a box somewhere but has been in the family for a few generations.

Food and stories just go together, don’t they?

There are always stories to tell about food, stories to tell about family recipes, about learning to cook them, about refusing to eat them when you were a kid, about requesting them special now that you’re an adult and you go home for a visit. Not that I know anyone who does that. Ahem.

So, friends, what are your favorite family recipes? Has the knowledge been passed down through generations? What memories do you have attached to those foods? And what are the stories you find yourself telling over and over again about food?

Go make something special, and then tell me about it.

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2 comments on “Pies, Family Recipes, & Stories You Can Taste

  1. Jessica Schwartz says:

    I didn’t know that “typical” apple crisp was made with oats until I got to college and it was served as such in the cafeteria — my grandma did not cook or bake much, but for holiday get-togethers she would always make an apple crisp that had a crumbly topping of just flour, sugar, and butter. Her mother-in-law made it before her, and she kept it going. It doesn’t feel right if there’s not apple crisp when my mom’s side of the family gets together!

    • elizabeth says:

      That crumb topping sounds exactly like what I grew up with on everything–on apple and cherry pies especially. My mom even used to make extra of the topping and keep it in the frig so my brother could snack on it. I definitely prefer it to “crisp” toppings–apple crisp with oats, like you’ve described it, always feels like it’s getting stuck in my teeth to me.

      My mom’s apple crumb pie recipe is one of my favorite family recipes for sure.

      Thanks for sharing!

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