If there is one thing this month has taught me, it’s that pie is not just pie.
My heart still aches for Jennifer Perillo and what she has to face right now. My family is devouring the peanut butter pie I made, and it seems unfair that I should be able to watch my family eat it with such everyday abandon knowing what she would give for another moment like this. What a generous heart to implore the whole food-blogging community to make pies for those we love. Now it is our turn to give back.
So, I have another pie story to tell, and ironically, though this pie story started back in May, it reached its pinnacle the very weekend that Jennifer Perillo told us all to go make pie.
Back in May, I read this blog post. Inspired by Matt’s write-up, I immediately hopped over to Art of the Pie to sign up for a class. Two Saturdays ago, I headed up to Seattle to learn how to make pie.
I’ve actually made a lot of pie in my time, but I wanted to learn a few new techniques. Sure, I picked up a few pointers. I learned how to cut in butter with more ease; I learned how to keep the whole process cooler; and I learned how to roll out dough on cold canvas. But those weren’t the most important things I learned.
As I pinched flour and lard and water between my warm hands, I thought of pie and what it evokes. Pie means home. Pie means gathering around a table or on a picnic blanket. Pie means sharing something homey and in season. Kate, in her Art of the Pie class, teaches us how to keep the spirit of pie alive. Hint: You don’t have to be terrified of your dough or treat it like something precious and fragile to keep on a pedestal. Like real life, you have to get down and dirty with your pie crust. You have to work with what you got. The moment I started to fret about a little tear in my dough, Kate was by my side, and shockingly, she tore a piece of dough off. Just tore it right off! “Don’t let that stop you from making pie.” Aha! I thought, this IS more art than science. I felt freed.
I understand why we all fret so much about this process: We want to be rewarded for our efforts. But the message that Kate hands us is that if we’re being stiff and dry, why wouldn’t our dough turn out the same way? “Make Pie, be happy,” she says. And she means it. Pie should be something that reflects our deepest sense of well-being, our frivolity. Not the thing that terrifies us and sends us running to the supermarket freezer section for something half-better. So some pies we make won’t turn out flawless. Life isn’t flawless. There may only be a handful of perfect pies in one lifetime, but if you get a handful of utterly perfect days in one lifetime, you’re doing pretty good.
The day I went to Kate’s class was one of those perfect days. The minute I walked through her door, I felt at peace with the moment. The late afternoon sun was taking hold and a warm breeze shot through her door as the smell of cinnamon greeted me and other kind cooks introduced themselves. I got to unwind and try mulberries for the first time and play with dough and have something delicious to show for it all. Pie may not solve the world’s problems, but it can make you feel better about the world, and maybe that’s just enough. Pass me another piece.
A huge thank you to Kate McDermott for sharing your kitchen and pie (and life) know-how. You will forever be one of the greats I’ve had a chance to learn from.