Why pie?

Why pie?

You’re wondering. I know.

Why not a year of cookies… or bread… or muffins… or cake… or chocolate mousse… or cocktails? (Wait a second… is it too late to make this about cocktails?)

Well, before I get to the pie part, I guess I’ve got to start with a little more about me, and a little more about the other “p” word this blog will address: perfectionism.

Ever since I was a kid, doing my best (and doing everything in my power to make sure my best was really spectacular) was something that was encouraged by many of the adults in my life, but by my dad in particular. As chance would have it, I was good at being good at stuff, especially school stuff. The more stuff I was good at, the more people expected me to be good at more stuff, all the time. So as a kid and then a teen, I went about being good at things, and getting noticed for it. For as long as I can remember, there were “expectations.” I was going to do things with my life. Impressive things. I was a nerd, but I think I was a mostly happy nerd. For a long time I didn’t feel the pressure of it all. I was aware of what people expected of me. It was always there in the background, but for a while, it didn’t concern me much. I was busy. As the time came closer for me to leave home I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do, probably because I was so busy trying to be great at everything I didn’t have a second to really think about what I loved. I left for university, picking something general and hoping I’d figure it out as I went. Then, close to the end of university, it hit me. I had no idea where I was going. No idea at all. Suddenly this bothered me, which was when I turned to the one thing I could say made me happy, and always had. I started baking. (I’d been baking since I was ten. I taught myself how because my mom specialized in Grasshopper Pie and Jello Pudding. Bless her. More on that later). Unbelievably, I scored a job in a great kitchen and loved it from the first moment. To my dad’s chagrin, I decided to finish my degree part-time and keep working at the bakery. I ended up working as a baker for more than five years, making pastries and cakes and chocolates and bread in some of the best establishments in the city.

I loved the work. It was hard. It was physical. It was creative. It was yummy. For the first time I felt that something I was good at also happened to be something that I wanted, something that I was choosing for myself, not because of what was expected or what was sensible or smart, but because it mattered to me and it pleased me. However, there was one thing I didn’t love: the money. I started wondering how I was ever going to make a go of it financially and eventually I came to the conclusion that the only way I could see a future in what I was doing would be to open my own place, and that wasn’t something I felt ready to do.

More school and another degree and now, five years later, I’m a teacher librarian. Next to baking, books have always occupied a happy place in my life. I’m a grown up. I’m married. I still bake. I love to write. Life is good. This said, I don’t know if it’s being well and truly 30-something, but lately I’ve been thinking more about where I am in my life, where I imagined I would be now, where I think everyone else thought I would be, and why that even matters at all. I’m wondering if I will ever discover what I want most, if I’ll ever have the guts to go for it, and if I can ever find a way to care less about perfection and how other people, those I love and those I hardly know, see me.

So now we come to pie part…

This idea came from somewhere, to make 52 pies and to write about the year I did it, right here, like this. Why pie? Of course it’s not as if I’m a Betty Crocker baker. Obviously I’ve made pies before, but I wouldn’t say they are really my thing. I can’t “whip up a pie” the way I can with other well-practiced favourite treats that appear regularly on our kitchen counter. I’m good at cookies. I can make a great cake. Sure, I baked my fair share of pies in the places I worked, but I don’t bake many pies at home (aside from a kick ass cheddar apple that comes around every five years or so). I’ve always found pies a little too finicky and time-consuming for regular home baking. Plus there’s a lot of waiting involved (chilling, rolling, chilling, baking, resting…) So this wacky pie notion appealed to me. It would be fun. It would be delicious. It would be a challenge. It would be a little bit crazy. And since I can’t pretend to be a pie expert, I knew that pie was exactly right. Pie was perfect. Choosing pie rather than something comfortable, meant that this project could also be about reflecting on my deeply engrained perfectionism and consciously trying to shake it off, or at least look it in the eye and say “get lost” a little more.

I hope that this 52 pie plan will be a way for me to focus less on aiming for perfection, and more on enjoying the learning, the living, and the eating along the way. I hope all of this pie brings me things I’d never expected. If at the end, I’ve made one perfect pie, so be it. If not, well, is there anything more comforting than pie?

I don’t need to be a pie goddess, I just need to make 52 pies.

And since it’s August, I think I’ll start with peach.

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