My Life of Pie
Growing up in a food-centered household, each member of my family carried their own strengths in the kitchen. My mom reigned queen of banana bread, weeknight stir-fry, and Friday night honey chicken. My dad was the designated king of family get-togethers, holiday feasts, and Sunday night themed-dinners. My sister was, and still is, the baking superstar of the bunch, always knowing the exact moment to pull chocolate chip cookies out of the oven or just how much frosting with which to ice a birthday cake. And myself, well I guess you could say I was the floater, dabbling in all of these realms at one point or another.
However, there was one food in particular that was pretty much untouched within the LaKind family. One delectable, warm-my-soul, fill-me-with-more-happiness-than-I-know-what-to-do-with food that I could truly call my “specialty.” And it just so happens to be a food that will be gracing most of our tables at Thanksgiving dinner next week. Drumroll please…it’s PIE!
My love affair with pie developed gradually over the course of many annual summer trips to southwest Michigan and began with a game-changing strawberry rhubarb pie. Having seen the recipe on the Food Network’s website (the Facebook of my teens), and having never attempted a pie in my life, I figured why not? I already seemed to gravitate towards frustrating, labor-intensive cooking projects like homemade donuts, jars of jam, and even a fondant layer cake (yes, I actually attempted this at home and no, it was not my best work). Pie just seemed like the natural next endeavor. I mean they don’t call something “easy as pie” for nothing, right?
Oh Maddie, how very wrong you were.
While a good pie does only require a few key ingredients, what my naïve, amateur baker-self didn’t know at the time was just how many external factors have to be accounted for in order to create a perfect final product. Temperature, speed, elbow grease, and extreme patience are all key players in achieving that famous flaky crust and a well-balanced, well-textured filling (insert your favorite here). My first attempt at strawberry rhubarb pie wasn’t a complete failure by any means. I’m sure it was probably consumed in its entirety within an hour of coming out of the oven. But, looking back, there are so many things I could have done differently.
Lets examine Exhibit A, shall we?
Now, I knew my first attempt would present some roadblocks, but I don’t think I fully grasped the complexities of pie until I started baking it regularly. For the past four or five years, it has become my go-to dish for parties, holidays, and those casual nights when I need a stunning dessert in my life. After what I imagine are probably upwards of forty pies, I think I can say I’m at least beginning to hone my techniques.
So, lets take a look at Exhibit B.
Despite the improvements, what pie has taught me is that nothing is ever perfect. As with life, every pie is an experience, teaching you something you didn’t know beforehand and helping you learn in the process. While I can’t say I didn’t shed some serious tears over all the soggy crusts, loose fillings, under-baking, over-baking, weird lattices, and burnt messes I’ve encountered in this journey, I take pride in persistence and trying to become the best at something you love.
That’s what pie has done for me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to honor it by indulging in all its pumpkin, pecan, or apple glory this week. So this Thanksgiving, I wish you all wonderful meals, good times with family and friends, and, of course, a sweet slice of your favorite pie at the end of the meal.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than that.