Chud and I had a wonderful weekend. We hosted our very first get-together at the new house and it was a splendid success. We're so grateful to everyone who stopped by. The weather was beautiful, the food was delish, and family, friends and neighbors were mingling like crazy. It was a wonderful weekend.
I have to say, there was one moment this weekend when I felt particularly nostalgic. All week long we worked on the yard, planned the grocery list, cleaned the house, etc. just so that I could wake up Saturday morning and make a couple of pies. I've been craving pumpkin pie since the leaves started turning, and I can't make the first pie of the year without making an apple pie as well. Why? Because that's the pie Mom makes, and it wouldn't be fall without one. I don't know what I looked forward to more: making the pies or having the party! For me, apple pie is the definition of fall, and as soon as the pie hits the oven, my senses take over and I get teary-eyed thinking about Mom's kitchen. For me, Apple Pie = Home.
Let me give you a little background. My Mom, Joyce, is one of six kids. All of them have their particular talents, but my Mom is "the pie-maker." Every holiday or gathering would not be complete without her apple pie. I remember, when I was little, everyone would make such a fuss over Mom's pies - especially the homemade crusts. Apparently they're pretty hard to do. Growing up, it seemed like every weekend from mid-October to late December was filled with pie making extravaganzas in Mom's kitchen. She had flour flying everywhere, and once she lined the pie pans, the leftover dough was used to make crackers for me and my brother. Pies were just a normal part of our weekend life, and I'm ashamed to say, I didn't really care much about how they were made. Mom tried to teach me, but I had bigger and better things to worry about; like who I was dating, where I was going to college, and what I was going to wear for the weekend.
Once I finally went to college, there weren't many people making apple pies in the dorms. I came home on the weekends with my arms full of laundry, but as soon as I walked in the door, I would drop my basket to the floor and take in a big whiff of Mom's apple pie sitting on the counter. Mmmmm....home. She continued to insist that I learn how to make one, but I was too busy. I had papers to write and beer to drink and semesters abroad to plan. No time for pie.
After I got married, Mom found the exact same 1980 copyright version of her Betty Crocker Cookbook at a yard sale. This was the one with HER crust recipe and she was so excited to find it that she bought it and gave it to me...just in case I ever wanted to try to make a pie. "Thanks," I said, and I stuck it on a shelf.
Last year I found myself craving an apple pie. I knew my first attempt wouldn't be nearly as good as Mom's and I didn't want it to be, because "Mom's Apple Pie" took years of practice to make, but I figured I might as well get started. Don't you know, that pie was pretty good! I took it to school and everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the homemade crust and I started thinking..."Mom might be on to something here."
Well, this weekend was the biggest "Aha" moment for me. As I was tossing the cold water into the flour and salt, I was imagining myself as a tiny little girl, sitting in the kitchen, watching my Mom do the same thing. I started wondering if my Mom watched her Mom do that when she was little, and so on and so on. Then I started putting the pie together and fluting the edges (that's the really hard and impressive part) and I realized that it wasn't that hard at all, because I had seen HER do it so many times before. It was like my hands already knew what to do, just from watching her. It really was amazingly satisfying.
When I put the apple pie in the oven, I started cleaning up the kitchen and finally got a good whiff of the cinnamon and apple goodness coming from the oven. My whole body felt warmer, happier, cozier....just loved. I felt loved. I felt my Mother's love in her 1980's Betty Crocker recipe, I felt my grandmother's love in her six child house; I know it sounds crazy, but I felt like all the women before me finally took a minute to stop and think, "Wow, Rachael's grown up, and she can finally make a pie."
The only test was the party - and folks loved the pies. Pete ate two pieces of the apple pie and I got lots of compliments! All night long I thought about all the traditions my Mom tried to start. She would give me jewelry and say "I hope you give this to your daughter someday; I want it to be an heirloom." She even spent months on a special quilt just for me to give to my kids. She tries so hard to find things to "pass on," but the best thing you could pass on to a kid is something you teach them without even knowing. If it weren't for her, I couldn't begin to make a pie. I'm the worst cook in the world, but since I SAW her do it, I could picture myself doing it, and when I see myself doing it, I picture they way she used to do it, and suddenly - it all makes sense. I don't know why I never wanted to make pies before. I guess it's all a part of growing up and being a Mom and saying to yourself, "This is the way things are done." And when you have a party, you make a pie.
I'm sure I'll try to teach my daughter how to make pies and I'm sure she'll tell me it's silly and she doesn't want to learn. But when she finally gets the gumption to make her own first pie all by herself, I'll be there to reminder her that pies are what we do. Fasciottos and Neltners, we know how to make pies. It won't fix the economy or whisk us off to exotic places, but it makes where ever we are feel like home and that's why we do it.
Apple Pie = Home.