Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Is this Pie Different from All Other Pies?

With all other pies, I felt certain that I would find blueberries at the farmers' market. Why with this pie did I worry that I might not?
As any halfway awake person has noticed and can confirm from personal experience, the weather and related environmental events have been . . . troublingly weird. Record-high temperatures. Drought here. Floods there. Violent storms, some with names we never heard before. Forest fires. Electrical outages. Trees falling. In Illinois, where I live (and nearby, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana), we've had the record drought and heat. Farmers are suffering, and at our local farmers market, farmers report that they lost high percentages of their peach and cherry and corn crops. As I heard and read about all this, I started to fear for the blueberry crops. I started to fear the idea of going to the farmers market at all because I feared I would see empty booths and tables that in past summers had been laden. But I forced myself to go, because it was the time of year for making the muse-inspiring blueberry pie, and to my delight and amazement, I found a wealth of blueberries.
In short, it wasn't as bad as I feared. And there were peaches, too. And ears of corn. Maybe not as much as in years past, but it was there. And none of this is to say that I dismiss the reality of environmental "problems." But it is meant to explain why my feelings about this pie are different from any other pie (that I can remember).

With all other pies, while being baked, the crust shrinks down a little bit from the sides. Why with this pie did the crust shrink down way more and the bottom-center of the crust balloon way up?
Now I realize that I should have taken a photo to show the described phenomenon. But I was so nervous about it (would the filling even fit into the shell with all that distortion?), I didn't think to take a picture of that phase. I did take a picture of an earlier phase--which may in part explain the crust behavior.
It's not a very good picture. In fact, it's a pretty bad one. But I think you might be able to see the problem. It was a very, very hot evening when I was rolling out the dough. And the butter was getting greasy--something you don't want to happen. Then, I delayed putting the crust into the refrigerator even longer as I attempted to get a photo of it, but I think my hands were unsteady (my concern with the crust, the heat of the evening), and that's why the photo is blurry. At any rate, I am thinking that the extra heat and greasiness may have contributed to the final outcome--the shrinkage and the ballooning. All of which might also be seen as weather-related.

With all other pies, the crust is visible along the sides of the pie pan above the filling. Why with this pie is the crust completely submerged?
See answer to previous question and photo at the top.

With all other pies, I have been basically by myself in the kitchen while I was baking. Why with this pie did I have company?
My daughter is home visiting, and she was in the kitchen while I worked, and she stirred the blueberries on the stove top for me--a step that has troubled me in the past, as some readers might remember, because the mixture looks so impossibly dry. Having her there was a very nice addition to the routine, as she reminded me with great practicality that everything would be fine because the berries have juice, and they would eventually release it into the dry ingredients on the stove top.

The point, I believe, is that every homemade pie is different from every other pie, as is every night. And to work back to the literary spirit that is at the heart of this pie baking, so is every writer and every writing session and every book and anxious moment and every joyous moment, and every literary rejection and every literary success. The crust sides may shrink and the crust bottom may balloon, and the result may be unconventional and unexpected in multiple ways, but it may still end up to be quite delicious, as my pie did this time.


Anonymous said...

Maybe your worry wasn't about the pie, but the pie was a victim, a metaphor here for the worry that even half-awake people are worrying about - WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS COUNTRY AND IN THE WORLD?
Finding corn and berries was easier than you thought because corn and berries grown earlier in the season, before this also insane weather, are somewhat abundant temporarily.
We are our own worst judges. I'm sure your pies taste swell and your muse is alive and well!

Susan Messer said...

True that there's plenty to worry about besides the pie, and the pie has always been a kind of metaphor. And it's true that it does taste delicious. Wish I could share it with you. Thanks for your interest and support.

Anonymous said...

My mother was a cook/baker whose talent was respected by everyone who knew her. Of course her recipes were in her head. I was afraid if I learned to cook from her, she would die. A few years ago I came across a small unlined notebook with Morton's Salt advertised on the cover. I opened to find her writing of many of her recipes. I was thrilled until I realized she noted only the ingredients she thought she'd forget.
Brent's Deli in the San Fernando Valley serves dishes my mother cooked. I am known to eat and weep there.
Your cooking stories remind me of my mother. And that's the BEST compliment I can give and I don't give it often.
I am eating your pie in my heart. Thank you.

Jody said...

This post made me grin a lot for several different reasons. Mostly because I felt so connected to you I think.

Susan Messer said...

Oh, so very glad to feel connected. Wish you were here to share the pie . . . it is quite wonderful, even with the balloon crust.

Susan Messer said...

Brent's Deli in San Fernando Valley? Wow. What dishes of hers do they server there? And thanks for the compliment. Very nice.

Anonymous said...

I rarely eat food my mother prepared. I just made an "A-" brisket. I grade them. Never an A.
My favorite pictures of my mother are her holding a Pesach platter of potato latkes in one hand and a platter of matzo latkes in the other and a picture of her rolling dough for pie crust, a twinkle in her eye. She didn't twinkle much.
Brents (Northrige CA) is a trip. Lots of MOTs stuffing themselves, mostly older, but many breaking in their children and grandchildren. Ignore the bad reviews. They are wrong.
My meal, salted with tears: Mushroom Barley Soup, Brisket, Kishka, Farfel and a chaser of a bite of the chopped liver sandwich ordered by my husband. As you might imagine, we share.
This Soul Food, sits very well in my often intolerant stomach.
The Bread Basket (is it still in Oak Park near Book Beat?) is unsurpassed for deli meat. He was taught by Jack Greenberg. The Stage was great when Jack and Harriet owned it. Left some tears there too.
My son calls me a kitchen Jew.
Thanks for asking. Felt good sharing!

Jim Poznak said...

Another reason the pie was different is because your daughter was also there to help you eat it!

Susan Messer said...

She certainly did eat it with me, side by side.