” We must have pie. Stress can’t exist in the presence of pie.”David Mamet, Boston Marriage
I close the book. Summer rain falls. A breeze slips through the screen on the open door. Autumn is a patient friend. One who waits for leaves to fly. A resident squirrel, cheeks full with acorns, scoots between the tall evergreen and fence. The world’s metronome taps a steady beat.
Some things remain uncertain, even in their certainty. I miss my mother. She waits for the seasons to turn and the pandemic to leave.
“It will leave.”
Her voice sounds less certain, more guarded.
“I don’t know. The world’s a mess,” she says.
These are not the words I wish to hear. I want her to rally, offer up sage advice, to have an answer.
“Hold to hope, Mom. The world is changing, perhaps, for the better.”
The world is slowing down.
Every sunrise, hope returns. Built to heal, I find comfort in words, friends, mornings and increasingly, time spent in the kitchen. There is something sacred about standing in silence, in front of a stove, while flipping through the pages of a cookbook. If I can’t help you, I can nourish you.
I will bake a pie. Pie is a reminder of a simpler, slower time. The act of baking something as lovely as pie, soothes.
Pie is a memory.
‘Julie London’ croons from the speaker. My mother hums ‘Black Coffee,’ off- key. She stands in the kitchen, notices the large mixing bowl, her rolling pin, the one I kept. Flour dusts the floor. Pie is messy. Fruit stains like a bruise. She adjusts her apron.
I watch her turn. She pours herself a cup of Joe from the espresso machine. Tucking a lock of hair behind one ear, she pivots and smiles. “A looker,” with her symmetrical features, fairy- tale widow’s peak, a grid mark leading to a crown of raven hair. Red lips. She favoured red lipstick.
I remember. Standing in the doorway of the tiny bathroom, I’d watch as she opened the tube and etched colour to her lips.
She had said, ” The trick is to blot with Kleenex.”
As children, we’d find ruby lip stained tissues carelessly left upon the bathroom counter, accidentally dropped onto the floor or peeking from her opened purse. Sometimes, I would scoop one up like a specimen, tuck it into a book, all to preserve a tangible piece of her.
Those days, I’d sit at the table and exchange knowing glances with my sister. Our mother’s style is now lost, other era, a nod to a fancier time where dresses ruled the kitchen and sling backs waited at the front door. Her ‘French look’ and clothing cut from Vogue, tailored by Singer, was soon to be another lost art. We thought her beautiful.
I watch as she lifts a teaspoon from the drawer and samples the filling. She closes her eyes, pleased.
Turning around, she has gone.
It’s certain. The world spins, seasons change, people come and go. What’s new is old. Some people enter our lives to teach us. Others, so precious we never forget their presence, and then there is pie.
Once considered old fashioned, pies are having a moment. Boutique bakeries offer pies “to go” because “made from scratch” pies are thieves of time. There are steps to follow: use cold butter, cut it into the flour (use two knives). Slightly beat the eggs. Add sugar by the teaspoon. Squeeze the lemon. There is timing in the mix. Chill the dough. There are tools to assemble. Find a four inch cutter. Shhh. I use a marimekko sugar bowl. Find a pastry brush (a small, clean paint brush does the trick). Prep the fruit.
As children, we picked our fruit from backyard trees. Sometimes apple, other times, pear or plum and once in awhile, at the end of a particularly long school day, we’d arrive home and spy a freshly baked pie on the counter. Cinnamon whispered stories of far away lands.
Our family rarely ate pie. When the spirit moved our mother to make a pie (and it was usually in autumn), she’d save the left over pastry bits, kneading and patting the dough to form a ball. If she was short of filling, she’d substitute jam.
I sense my mother’s return.
Gently, she rolls the dough out onto the counter. Dipping a spoon into the saucepan, she tops each round with filling. A brush stroke dips into a saucer of milk, coats the edges of pastry. Overlapping and pressing, she lifts a fork, touching the tines to the dough. With a sharp knife she fashions a top cut.
“Hand Pies.” The semilunar fit was perfect for our small hands. Silently, we’d nibble along the pressed edge, allowing crumbs to fall into a dish of vanilla ice cream, every bite of steamed fruit, richer, tastier. In this moment, we understood. Mom had loved us enough to create a magical delight at the sweet end of the scale.
I place three Hand Pies into a tin. For her.
A text appears.
You bake pies?
I smile. Say it like it’s a bad thing.
Quote: David Mamet: Boston Marriage
she bakes pies