a pie poem

I found a pie poem! I found it in one of my very favourite collections for children (and grown ups too really), all the small poems and fourteen more, by Valerie Worth. It’s full of poems about everyday wonders. So of course, there would be a poem about pie in there. Here it is to enjoy on a Monday morning.

pie

After the yellow-white
Pie dough is rolled out
flat, and picked up
Drooping like a round
Velvet mat, fitted gently
Into the dish, and piled
With sliced, sugared,
Yellow-white apples,
Covered with still another
Soft dough-blanket,
The whole thing trimmed
And tucked in tight, then
It is all so neat, so
Thick and filled and fat,
That we could happily
Eat it up, even
Before it is cooked.

I’ll share my weekend pie with you soon. It was one of those “less-than-perfect” pies I knew I would make sometime this year. Lessons have been learned. But still, it must be shared, because it is pie.

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One perfect pie story in Molly Birnbaum’s Season to Taste

Today I finished Molly Birnbaum’s memoir, Season to Taste. I enjoyed it as much as I’d hoped. It made me think about my big nose (thanks Dad!), my favourite kitchen scents, my most powerful food memories, and how most days, I take all of these for granted. (It also made me think I might need to change my name to Molly in order to be a great food writer. Further evidence). Molly’s story is quite something. After an accident when she was hit by a car while jogging, Molly lost her sense of smell. Any food person would understand why this would be a profound loss, since taste is inextricably linked to smell. Add to this fact that at the time, Molly dreamed of becoming a chef and was planning on pursuing this dream at the Culinary Institute of America. She put all of this on hold and shifted her focus to learning everything she could about her condition, all the while desperately hoping that she could recover even some of what she had lost. Her book is her account of this amazing journey back to taste. I guarantee that Molly’s story will teach you a great deal about the science of scent and the power of this sense to influence your perception of the world, your relationships with others, and your enjoyment of life. One of the most impressive aspects of the book is Molly’s talent for making the science accessible (and interesting) to non-scientific folk, and her storytelling is charming and honest and evocative.

From a pie-lover’s perspective, this memoir has a sweet pie story close to the beginning. Molly writes about her memory of the “baby pies” her mother and her grandmother used to make with the scraps of pie dough leftover after rolling out the crust. The scraps would get baked up with butter and cinnamon and sugar. I remember my grandmother doing the same thing. She’d roll out the bits she hadn’t used and cut them into circles with a glass, or else just leave them as they were. She’d arrange all of oddly shaped pieces on a baking sheet and maybe brush them with a little butter and dust them with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. My sister and I would stick around in the kitchen, hovering, until they came out of the oven and then we’d eat them fast, not even letting them cool for fear the other would get more. My sister and I couldn’t agree on a lot of foods when we were kids, but those sugary pie cookie bits were worth fighting for.

Molly follows the baby pie story with another about making an apple pie in Namibia. It was her first attempt at pie. It has a happy ending. This story is perfect proof of how pie can be healing and restorative, both in the making and the eating. It reminds how pie is about more than its simple ingredients. Pie is hopeful. Pie is community. Pie matters.

Molly’s book is full of goodness and sweet and truthful observations about food and life. Like pie, I plan to share my copy with someone soon.

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… Continue reading