For Christmas The Boy gave me a book called Pie, by Ken Haedrich. It was sort of a joke gift, but not really.
The theme of pie runs straight and true through our family’s lineage (and I bet through yours too). We are Americans after all, and, well… you know the rest.
Childhood memories of pie? Of course; don’t we all have them? My Mother took us blue-berrying in Nantucket in summers of yore. We waded knee deep in blueberry bushes, and filled plastic tubs with tiny berries. I guess we didn’t worry so much about Lyme disease back then. Ker-plink, ker-plank, ker-plunk. Even with a little nibbling among the bushes, we came away with quarts of berries. Back at the house in Monomoy, Mom would make her own pastry, and then create a deep dish two crust blueberry pie. Perfect. And we would eat it all. Uncle Tom, with whom we shared the summer house in those days, was a major fan of his sister Louise’s fresh blueberry pie.
Occasionally the pie was peach. Local summer peaches, rolled in a pan of boiling water, skinned and sliced into that same deep pie pan, with hand rolled pastry. Also perfect.
My Husband’s Father, Granddad, loved pies too. Apparently his mother, Great-Grandmother Dorothy, was a dab hand with pie crust in her day.
And I have my own pie history – for instance, the strawberry-rhubarb meringue pie I had to make at least twice, for a dinner party in Palo Alto. Yes, I exploded the rhubarb instead of stewing it, the first time around, and then almost burnt the meringue on the second try! But it WAS good.
And the famous – or infamous – sour cherry pie I made for My Husband, a real pie-fan himself, in New York City, when The Eldest was still a little boy. My brother-in-law was coming for dinner, so I decided on a pie for dessert. (Pie for one just doesn’t feel right, does it?) I bought pounds of sour cherries at Westside Market on Broadway. I pitted each one, until my fingers were stained with their juice (and possibly scarred with a thousand small cuts – you see where this history is going, right?). I made a crust; I emptied in the mound of pitted sour cherries; I laid the second crust over the top of the fruit and crimped the edge. Then I baked the pie until the cherry juice bubbled up through the decorative fork piercings in the top. It did take me awhile, to create that sour cherry pie. And the two brothers sat there at the dinner table together, and (what did I say before?) ate the entire pie that night. Compliments, yes? It might be time to bake another one of those…
So The Boy inherited his love of pie from both sides of his lineage, through honest descent, and he has been a pie man since early on.
Growing up in London, he also came to know and love ‘pudding’ (aka dessert), and firmly believes to this day that the best desserts are the warm ones. Possibly even served with a topping of cream. Once, as a young teenager, riding home from the beach in Nantucket, The Boy said – apropos of nothing in particular – “I need pie.” That line has joined the most quote-ables in our family. At Thanksgiving, the Aunts worry enough about family pie-appetites that they lay in a backup stock of “Emergency Pie”.
So you see, his Christmas gift to me was not a joke. It wasn’t subtle. He needed pie.
The Boy has just graduated from college. We have had a couple of his friends visiting us here in Boston since then. Each one of them seems to know about his gift of the Pie book. “So there’s the book on pie,” they say, looking up at the kitchen shelf. Just throwing down the gauntlet, wouldn’t you say?
This past weekend The Boy was home again, with a roommate and crew teammate in tow (who also knew all about the book, of course). The only answer was to make a pie. Coincidentally, My Husband and The Boy had gone shopping at Costco just before the weekend. Somehow a bushel bag of limes seemed like a good and inexpensive addition to the fridge. What to do with several dozen limes? Make pie, of course.
I consulted The Book (“a splendid celebration of American pie and its preeminent place in our baking tradition and a complete resource – the only resource – you’ll ever need.”) Lemon Meringue became Lime Meringue, and away we went.
Then, coincidentally, The Eldest made his traditional Sunday phone call home, while I was whisking eggs yolks, corn starch, lime juice and lime zest over medium heat. He had been sailing on Boston Harbor all day. I forestalled him, saying much as I would love to talk at length, I had reached a very delicate stage of the pie baking process.
“P-I-E?” he said.
He admitted he had already had beer and sausages for Sunday supper at his sailing club, but “might it be possible to swing by the house for a visit, and a slice of pie?” Of course.
So we sat down to dinner en famille – over a pretense of a first course of lamb and orzo salad. Face it. It was always all about the pie, although that Lime Meringue Pie certainly gets credit for bringing the family together.
I would recommend Lime Meringue Pie, topped with mounds of delicately toasted home made meringue. It melts, it simply evaporates in your mouth, tasting like lime-infused air; at least it does until just about half-way through your slice.
Here’s another interesting observation about pie – how it quickly becomes half-a-pie. Or no pie at all.
Bake a pie and they will come.