Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pie, Blueberries, and Literature

This past Friday night, my husband and I hosted our book group in our home. The book up for discussion was The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson--the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, and even more important in my opinion, the winner of the marvelous Tournament of Books. I don't want to talk about the book, at least not here. What I want to talk about is the blueberry pie I served.
     As those who read my blog will know, I have a very particular attachment to blueberry pie, and every summer, some time during blueberry season, I go to the local farmers market, buy my blueberries, and I bake this particular pie (a layer of whipped cream under a layer of berries)--an offering to the literary muse as well as an offering of gratitude for (and an affirmation of) the friendship I formed with writer Patry Francis, some years ago, in a time before time, via a wonderful no-longer-existing website and on-line forum called Readerville.
Making the pie for my reading group had several benefits: (1) it was a literary event and thus compatible with the literary theme that Patry and I have interwoven with the pie and (2) it brought me an audience of eaters.
     Every year, I am very attentive to the making of the pie--how it feels and how I feel and what I can learn from it, about inspiration and concentration and stress and uncertainty--all ingredients in the writing process. This year, to add a new level of immersion, I followed the recipe instructions to look the berries over--discarding leaves and stems and the little green unripe ones and overripe squished ones. I usually conduct this step in the most cursory way, but this year, I looked deeply into the colander, taking the time to sort thoroughly and carefully. How and why this may apply to my current writing project, I cannot say. I only know that I felt compelled to complete this step and that I enjoyed it. Then, as I went, I took a picture of each additional step, emailing it to Patry as I went, thus constructing a photo essay of pie making. I had mixed up the crust (a pate brisee), rolled it out, and frozen it the week before, so forgive me for not including those steps in the essay.

1. The crust lined with foil and filled with rice, ready for the first baking.
2. crust, baked and golden (a little shrinkage, but okay).
3. 1-1/2 cups berries, simmered with sugar and corn starch, butter melting.
4. all berries added, ready for chilling.
5. the whipping of the cream.
6. the spreading of the cream in the crust/
7. Ta-da!
I meant to take a  photo of the group sitting around the coffee table, eating the pie post-discussion, the paperbacks and e-readers arrayed on the table among the plates and forks and napkins, and the chair that held the laptop via which two of our members Skype in from Colorado (alas, no pie for them), but I became so caught up in the experience, and the pie was so very delicious, that I forgot to do so. Sometimes the experience trumps the photo.


Patry Francis said...

Thoroughly enjoyed "making" the pie with you via email. I love the way the process teaches something new every time--and how it holds out its special hope every summer. No matter how the writing is going, or what's happening in the publishing world, blueberry season is always just around the corner. Who knows what magic it might bring?

Susan Messer said...

Oh, yeah. Hope is good. So perhaps will be Blue Magic. So glad to have this connection with you, Patry.

Anonymous said...

I think this is my third online Blueberry pie attendance. Too bad taste/smell is not an online option!

Rose D. Sigman

Susan Messer said...

True. Maybe they'll have that feature by next year. And true, also, that you're now part of the tradition.

Chasity said...


Susan Messer said...

Cool, indeed. Thanks.