Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yellow bowl and grandma's pies

Did you ever clean out a cabinet and come across something that reminded you of something or someone? The feeling I got was like that comfort food when I was a kid. Like when I'd come home from school and before I entered the house, the smell of cookies baking filled my senses. It just filled me with good thoughts.

As I turned my carousel shelf in the corner of my kitchen cabinets, I found the yellow Fiesta bowl in which I learned to make pie crust. I knew I had the bowl, but never really thought much of it until I saw it last week.

Grandma's eyes weren't very good for seeing by the time I was old enough to learn her magic. Even so, she still baked three things better than any person I knew – cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, molasses cookies, and pies! 

I would gather what we needed – lard brick, flour, cold water, salt, and the yellow bowl... no spoon, no measuring cups or measuring spoons. Grandma didn't need anything else. She had made so many pies in 65 years, she could show her 10-year-old granddaughter how to make pies practically with her eyes closed in 1955. 

I stood next to her at the bowl. I just watched. Her aging, thin hands plunged into the flour container and one by one, she would put a hand full of flour into the bowl, then twirl her fingers in the flour as if to measure how much was there. When she was satisfied she had the right amount for a two-crust pie, grandma would add some salt, just the right amount – always. We had a brick of lard because grandma knew how much to cut off to crumble with the flour. She would say, if we didn't put in enough lard, we can add more, but if we put too much in, we will just add more flour. Simple as long as we didn't add the water. 

Grandma taught me how the combined lard and flour should feel before adding the water. In no time the dough would be formed and we covered it with wax paper and put it in the pantry where it would stay cool before we rolled it out.

In the mean time, the apples were peeled and prepared for the filling. The pie dough came out of the pantry and I got out the bread board (which is another treasure of mine). The rolling pin was very old and heavy. It was too big for me to handle, but grandma handled it skillfully, determined to get the dough just the right thickness and she did.

How she ever got the dough into the pan without it cracking is beyond me, but she did – every time! The filling went in: first some flour on the bottom, next sliced apples, sprinkle cinnamon & sugar, butter pieces dotted the top of the filling. Place the top crust and slit the top so steam can escape. Even though Grandma couldn't see that well, she would take up the paring knife and made a wonderful wheat stalk pattern. To this day some 50 plus years later, I still can't make that pattern as she had done.

The oven was hot and the pie went in. No timer was set. Grandma knew when it would be time to take it out. She just knew.

Her pies were always perfect! I still can't make many pies like grandma did even though I learned from the expert. My pies turn out good, but they never taste like hers. 

Lately, when I do make a pie, I get lazy and use the pre-made crust from ALDI's and I set a timer. One of these days, I should try my hand at grandma's way again. Or maybe just let my grandson do it! That sure looks like one of grandma's!

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