Rolling Pin and Flour

Rolling Pin and Flour

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The magic of pie

I have a slight obsession with pie. There is almost nothing better than a slice of pie still warm from the oven with just the right amount of sweet, just the right amount of spice, and those glorious seasonal ingredients cloaked by a rich and flaky crust. Maybe what I love about pie is that it is so incredibly versatile and seasonal. I mean, you wrap something in buttery pastry crust and it's got to be good right? How could you possibly go wrong? Apple pie in the fall, pumpkin at Thanksgiving, pecan in winter, strawberry rhubarb in spring, cherry in summer, key lime, lemon meringue and french silk in all spots in between - just to name a few. Pure. Heaven.

Before my husband and I started dating, I was trying to convince him of the glory of rhubarb. This was something I grew up on and my mom and grandmother always made beautiful things with it. Its sharp tang mixed with something sweet and juicy like strawberries is one of the ultimate flavor combinations in my opinion. I couldn't fathom that someone wouldn't like it. So I decided I needed to win him over. And I would do it with the ultimate dessert, pie.

So I located the rhubarb, I found the perfect strawberries, and when all was said and done, I had made one damn good pie. Now I won't lie, I'm not great at making crusts. They always come out a bit dry and chewy no matter how hard I try. But not this one. This one was flaky, melt in your mouth delicious. There was no way he couldn't like rhubarb after he tasted this. So I sent him a text message, invited him over for a slice of pie. In his version of the story, as soon as he got my text, he biked from downtown up to my neighborhood (a good eight or nine miles) in record time to eat a pie that contained the devil's fruit. He ate the entire slice of pie.

"Well?" I asked when he finished. I was dying to know what he thought.

He looked at me, hesitating slightly. I could tell he was trying to choose his words carefully. "It's the best rhubarb pie I've ever had."

I laughed, understanding completely. "You still hate it don't you?"

He hung his head and nodded. So I accepted defeat. Some people hate rhubarb because they've never had it prepared correctly. But some people just plain hate it. There would be no convincing him on this one. That night was not a complete failure, however. I learned that this man would bike clear across the city to eat something he hated just to spend some time with me. I call that a pie win!

Since I had started at the Farmhouse, I had yet to see a pie on the dessert menu even though this seemed like the type of place where you should find one. Pam had told me to make apple crisp a regular dessert item, but I couldn't help but feel that this was a cop out. Apple crisp was what people made when they didn't have the time or kahunas to make a pie. Besides, I was tired of Pam giving me things to do, and then never being around to give me recipes or constructive feedback. So I took matters into my own hands. I decided I was going to put apple pie on the dessert menu.

Armed with a recipe and an idiot's fearlessness, I went in for my Thursday shift and departed several hours later leaving two warm pies sitting on the counter. Even though my apple crisp the week before had been an epic fail, I felt good about this.

It turns out, the customers felt good about it too. When I came in for my shift the following Monday, there was one piece of pie left.

Up to that point, staff at the cafe had more or less left me alone. I was only there two nights a week and when I was, I was working pretty steadily. There was no time to chat or get to know anyone. But something changed when those pies came out of the oven. Suddenly people wanted to talk to me and know my story. One server told me the smell of the pies brought a tear of nostalgia to his eyes. A bartender was shocked when I told her this was my first baking job.

When I told Michael, another server, about being in the kitchen with my grandma when I was little, he said, "She'd be proud of you if she could see you right now."

Moments like these made me realize that there was something truly magical about pie. It had the capability to bring people closer together, to help a budding romance, to make the worst day a little brighter. Our memories with pie are always good and for some reason we choose to hold onto them and share them with others. I was honored to be creating more of those moments for anyone that visited that cafe. Because let's face it, life is just generally better when there is pie.

The recipe that was the inspiration for my apple pie at the Farmhouse can be found here.

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