Thursday, February 18, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: My Pie Crust Phobia

As with most things, it's one, if not both, of your parents' faults. This is true for everything from why you can't stay in relationships to why your nose is clearly bigger than you'd prefer. What the "it" is, doesn't really matter.

So it is that I blame my father for my fear of making pie crust. An expert baker, my dad was the pie baker in our family; my mother wisely decided not to compete after sitting through a famous family moment in which my father and his mother — also apparently a great pie baker, although I don't remember sampling her wares — had a pie bake-off. They each baked a pie and then my mother, luckly lady, was among those asked to pick the best one. Talk about the proverbial family win-win. I'm not sure how she weaseled out of it, but she did — and she never, not once, not ever, baked a pie for our family. Quel surprise!

My dad's pies were the stuff of dreams. He mostly made them annually for Thanksgiving since he worked all the time and frequently came home after I went to bed at night. His apple pies were at least six or seven inches high, no joke, while his pumpkin pies were delectable. But while the fillings were terrific, it was all about the crust, which was buttery and simultaneously light and doughy at the same time. Post-holiday, my sister and I usually ate the pies for breakfast for as long as they lasted, which wasn't long, believe me.

Now while I pride myself on being a good cook and a damn fine baker, I'm no fool. I'm not competing unless I think I have a shot, and as long as my dad was alive, I wouldn't even enter the starting gate. That fear lingered long after my father was dead, indeed until this past Thanksgiving when I decided, at Rachel's urging, to make a pie crust from scratch.

I finally realized — aging really does make you wiser — that my fear wasn't about making a bad pie crust; my worry was that I might make a good pie crust and therefore somehow shatter the myth behind my father, a myth that has helped keep him alive and with me somehow even though he's been dead for over 20 years. It was a silly worry, of course. As I stood at the counter before Thanksgiving kneading and rolling the dough, I actually felt as if he was there with me. I only wish I'd done it sooner.

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