We decided to get away this past weekend, so we visited our friends, Rick and Belinda, in Fayetteville. We watched the fleeting colors of autumn scatter underfoot as we walked the farmer’s market at the old town square looking at beautiful vegetables and contrarian havens of high gluten pastry.
Karen grew up in the Garden State so vegetables are right in her wheelhouse. I grew up eating red white and blue food. By that I mean lots of milk and Wonder bread, hamburgers with Coca-Cola, corn on the cob and pie. These foods were as American to me as baseball and the Star-Spangled Banner.
I’m more sophisticated now. I don’t eat seven layer bean dip and bacon. I eat hummus and pork belly. But sometimes I cannot resist a visit to the altar of wholesome American sweetness…pie. So, while Karen and Belinda browsed consignment clothing, Rick suggested that we visit Forks and Crust to check out pie.
Once while Rick was in high school, he stumbled upon a strawberry pie in the frig and he ate the entire pie. For many years after that notable splurge, he was allergic to strawberries. Until recently, when he received a miraculous healing. He can once again eat strawberries without consequence.
My pie heritage goes back to holidays with my grandmothers. My favorite pies were Jefferson Davis pie, a simple cream and custard pie by Grandma Davis, and blackberry pie/cobbler by Grandma Taylor. For many years, my family served up Jeff Davis pie at family gatherings but I thought it was Jess Davis pie. This classic southern pie was loved by the first president of the Confederates States and since he was the most famous southern person who loved it, they named it for him, apparently, not my Grandpa Jess.
Another infamous pie event happened after my daughter Jenna and wife Karen made nine blueberry pies and froze them. I was home alone one afternoon and noticed them. Not bothering to bake one…or even thaw one…I sawed out a frozen slice with a steak knife and ate it like a popsicle. Impulsiveness, unlike ice cream, does not pair well with pie.
So, two recovering pie addicts stood in the pie line at Forks and Crust like kids holding a Christmas list, but like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he froze and told Santa he wanted a football instead of a “Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle,” we froze under pressure. We had no idea what pie to order. We were getting ready to compromise and order one piece of pie when the young lady behind the counter intervened and suggested that we order 7 slices assembled on one plate. In my mind, I did a Belushi back flip down the aisle of salvation as I considered this revelation. Coconut and chocolate cream, cherry and apple crumble, chocolate oat ganache, German chocolate, and buttermilk pie nestled into a glorious circle of decadence.
Decadent yes, but really too much. We shared with the family and tasted all 7, but it didn’t seem quite as good as pies enjoyed around the Thanksgiving tables of my youth. My grandmothers fed their families in the midst of hard times in different corners of Oklahoma, one corner known for coal mining and the other for the Dust Bowl.
Grandma Davis was famous for pie and chicken, and she once admonished me at Sunday dinner, taking a gnarled chicken leg from my plate and gnawing it down to the gristle as if it were a sin to leave meat on the bone. Waste not, want not.
And on a dirt road near her home, Grandma Taylor taught me to pick free blackberries from the fence row, which magically migrated from a tin pail to a cobbler for the ages. Be content with what you have.
I’ve learned a lot while eating pie…
- Be content with what you gather from the fence row
- Waste not
- And celebrate…when the time is right, hunker down with those you love over a piece of pie. There aren’t many moments more lovely and enriching.
Enjoy your family this Thanksgiving and be grateful for those who have gone before us in times that were leaner and simpler and the pie choices few. Be thankful for dirt roads and sodden homes and windswept hard times and tough souls who persevered and made life taste really good with what was right in front of them, never taking a meal for granted, always thankful.