Wednesday, November 26, 2008


For those of you unfamiliar with Fiddler on the Roof, that is one of its more rousing refrains.

It is that time of year to bake pies. I have been promising to bake the boyfriend a wild blueberry pie for many moons now. Thanksgiving seemed like the moment to pull out all the baking stops.

As a small girl... I mean really small... my mother would pull out the bottom drawer in one of our pantry cabinets so that I could stand on it to watch her make pies. As soon as she felt I could keep my balance on the drawer and do a task she handed me a small pie tin, leftover pie crust, a rolling pin and a dullish knife to cut apples. I was probably four or five.

I am not sure why I was singled out from all the girls in my family to learn this skill. Perhaps I showed early promise? More than likely it was just my mother closing her eyes and deciding which virgin to throw in the volcano. My mother hated baking and she figured the best thing to do was to teach a daughter so she would never have to perform this Thanksgiving Day task again. By the time I was eleven I would bake several pies for my family and a few to sell to neighbors.
Maybe my mother felt guilty about this (although I doubt it, she is probably still snickering at her cunning) so a few years back she bequeathed me all of her best baking tools. Her pastry cloth- which you cannot make pie without, a big wooden rolling pin, some antique pie plates and her beat up, old measuring spoon set.

Handling all these tools again takes me back to the magic of my childhood holidays. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, the Macy's Parade, playing games with my wicked Uncle Rufus, noise, confusion and food, food, food!

While I have never learned to properly roast a turkey, in a pinch I probably could. I would watch my mother intently- daring myself to touch the skin of the raw turkey-ewwww! I would help her mix the stuffing with my hands- the raw eggs were so slimy. She also taught me to brush my pies with milk so they would turn a golden brown.
I think she taught me pretty darn well. Especially how the chef always needs a glass of wine to ensure a good product. How did that sneak into the top photo?


JAF said...

Isn't the rule of thumb to baste the turkey every half glass of wine? There must be an equivalent rule for baking pies. Either way, I envy the historic talent and the "real" pies.

SMC said...

Half? Apparently I need to go back and read my Fanny Farmer's.