Our youngest daughter, the light of our lives, wanted to have some friends and their parents over for dinner and a sleepover a few weekends ago. (To clarify, the friends would sleep over, not the parents. That would have been weird for all involved.) My lovely wife Jen and I discussed the menu for the evening, and my daughter interrupted: “Why didn’t I hear you say ‘pie’ when you talked about dessert?” I said, “Because we’re having ice cream, cookies, and fruit; that should be enough.” She said, “But we’re known for our pies!”
It is not exactly true that we are known for our pies. But we do like to bake pies. Or rather, we tolerate the baking of the pies because we love to eat pies. The four most popular pies in our household, spanning our own personal pie season (May to December) are strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, apple, and pumpkin.
I wonder who was the first person to pick a rhubarb stalk, eat it, spit it out, and say, “This is horrible! It would taste great with 7 cups of sugar!”
The only things my family likes more than pie are chocolate and ice cream. This has nothing to do with the rest of the blog post; it’s just that I am hungry and thinking about chocolate. And ice cream. (Part of the reason that I run marathons is so that I can eat garbage food as a reward. That’s probably what separates me from the elites.)
Growing up, pie was not a big thing in my family. I don’t ever recall having a homemade pie at any time in our house. I did, however, spend a lot of time at a Poppin’ Fresh Pies restaurant in our hometown, which became a Bakers Square right around when I entered junior high. I mention this because the first two dates that I went on in eighth grade involved taking girls out to Poppin’ Fresh/Bakers Square. I’m surprised those relationships didn’t last more than a week or two: I knew exactly what ordering pie “a la mode” meant and used it correctly to our server. (Something about ice cream, right? I’m still hungry.)
My mother-in-law is a great pie baker. I don’t try to compete with her. Her pies are elaborate, delicious, and have a high degree of difficulty. If Jen requests an apple pie for her birthday, I let the mother-in-law do it. I know my place in the pecking order.
My pies, on the other hand, are humble. (Humble pie; see what I did there?) I make the crust from scratch with a little butter, some whole-wheat flour, salt, and water. For the fruit pies, I mix as few ingredients as is necessary to impart the flavor of the main ingredient (example: blueberry pie filling has blueberries, sugar, tapioca, a splash of lemon juice, and maybe a little cinnamon). I overfill the pie pan, then I put the top layer of crust on it and make a creative or goofy design. Usually the latter.
Then we eat the pie. Then my kids complain that the pie went way too fast.
I selflessly cut my pieces smaller to help the rest of the family out. I do this knowing that at least one person (Jen) doesn’t like to finish the crust, so I eat the leftovers to make up the caloric difference. I get all the glory of being selfless without the actual selflessness.
A few weeks ago, I was so desperate for rhubarb that I convinced my neighbor to let me cut down some of hers. I had already cut mine down for a pie the previous week. I felt guilty about that for a while. Then I ate some pie and felt better.