Stephanie Pearce: Pie baking

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Fall is the perfect time to make pies. The cooler weather makes it tolerable to turn the oven on and heat up the house. The smell of the baking pie crust wrapped around the warm, fragrant fruit fills the air. Making pies totally from scratch isn’t heard of a lot with the convenience of pre-made pie crusts and even frozen pies. My favorite part of pie baking is the leftover crust my mom would make into cinnamon sticks.

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Stephanie Pearce

This leads me to one of my favorite memories of a pie baking contest. My dad is a pretty big man (I look like the girl version of him). He loves his food. He also knows how to get people to cook it for him. Now that I look back on this contest, I realize just how good he was at it.

My mom made my dad a pie one night and he pointed out all the things wrong with it in front of a lot of us kids, including our neighbor, Glenda. He complained the pie crust wasn’t flaky enough and that the apples were cut too large. He complained it didn’t taste as good as his mother’s and that no one could make a pie crust as good as his mother’s.

This is where, if he was my husband, I would tell him if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to eat it. Then, the next time he asked for a pie, I would tell him maybe his mother would be happy to make it. But my mom never did. She would work harder to make it the way he wanted it the next time. Of course, Dad realized that if he complained, more pies came.

Glenda heard Dad complaining and she took it as a challenge. She challenged my mom to a pie bake-off and Dad would taste test and decide whose pie was best. Mom accepted the challenge and I think they decided on cherry pies for the bake-off.

The next day, I watched as Mom made several pie crusts. Not wasting anything, the crusts that didn’t make her final pie went into those tasty cinnamon sticks, so I really was excited about failed crust attempts. Her final crust had been made with a careful combination of butter and cold water. This crust was flaky and delicious! She poured in the cherry filling. She carefully put a lattice top crust on it that took quite a while to get just right. And then she covered that with foil so it wouldn’t burn. This was when I knew Mom was serious about the bake-off. She nearly always burned everything and had little regret about it. My dad was so big that she would laugh and say it was her burnt offering to her Buddha. So, taking this step to not burn the crust was a serious one.

Glenda came over with her pie after dinner. She had a beautiful pie, as well. They each cut a piece for Dad and he tasted each one. He declared Glenda the winner and after some celebration pie, she went home. After Glenda left, Dad told Mom her pie was the best she ever made and it was delicious. He went on to tell her that she was the actual winner, but he didn’t want to hurt a teenage girl’s feelings. The smile on Mom’s face made me know she believed him. That smile and the cinnamon sticks made the pie bake-off one of my favorite memories.

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