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Friday, April 13, 2012

Pie, First Ladies and the Wonderful World of Blogging

I love pie.  Unfortunately, in my bursting at the seams house, I am one of only two people who have this predeliction.  Don't ask me why, but the other eight Gariepys have something seriously wrong with them.

There's a lot to love about pie.  First, there's the crust.  Whether you opt for the good, old American Crisco version, a sweeter, butterier (is "butterier" a word) and much more continental Pate Sucree, or an easy and delicious graham cracker crumb, you've got a winner.  In fact, for me, the crust is probably the best part of the pie.  I love the filling too, but I've been known to eat that first just so that I can enjoy the crust all by itself.  To be completely honest, it doesn't even have to be cooked to get my attention...  I am a sucker for pie dough.  My mother had to caution me against eating too much, although it never worked.  I seem to vaguely remember some bogus warning using the example of an episode of my favorite television show at the time, Emergency, in which a kid was sent to the hospital because he ate too much pie dough.  Really, as if I'd believe that Paramedic John Gage would waste his time on a youthful pie dough glutton...  But, I digress...

Countless pie crust recipes exist, all with their own special tips and tricks.  For me, as I've mentioned above, nothing beats the basic Crisco recipe.  It's simple and, if you don't put too much thought into it, easy.  I think that salt is really the key.  I can't stand a pie crust without it.  In fact, I think almost everything benefits from a bit of salt...  I never use unsalted butter when baking, and firmly believe that a little dash in frostings brings out the butteriness (another new butter related word).  Again, I digress...

Pie fillings are endless.  There is the endless bounty of fruity fillings...  blackberry, cherry, peach, rhubarb, blueberry, marionberry, strawberry, apple and, most delicious of all, raspberry.  There are countless combinations, too...  cherry-raspberry, raspberry-peach, apple-blackberry, apple-cranberry, cherry-blueberry...   could fill the rest of this post with ideas.  I won't go into the cream pies, meringue pies and the custards.  Nor will I mention specifically all of the savory pies one can whip up.  If you put it into a pie crust, I will probably eat it.

It's not just the eating that makes pie so wonderful.  There's the making, the cooling, the holiday and family associations that it brings to mind and, always important to me, the nostalgia.  Pie reminds me of life on the American farm...  The white, blue and red kitchen (as seen in the 1945 version of State Fair) is humming with activity, a slight breeze is blowing the blue and white gingham curtains at the windows, and there are pies of every kind baking in the oven or cooling on the windowsill or.  Mother, wearing a cheerful apron, and played by either Spring Byington or Fay Bainter (there's State Fair again) is effortlessly rolling out pie crusts  These flaky-crusted treats are bound for the farm-hands lunch, or perhaps the annual Church bake sale.  Or, perhaps it's Thanksgiving evening and you've just about recovered from the huge midday meal when, suddenly, the table is once again groaning, this time with pumpkin, apple and pecan pies.  Maybe there's even a mince pie with hot butter rum sauce if you're lucky...  You see, what could be cozier than pie?

Fay Bainter...  The perfect farm wife and mother,
and mincemeat maker
in State Fair.

Spring Byington, Doris Day's mother in
Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and
star of TV's December Bride.

I have a few favorite pie makers...  My mother makes the best blackberry pies, as well as Raspberry Chiffon and Chocolate Cream Cheese.  My mother-in-law makes delicious apple pies (I don't usually care for apple, but hers are a definite exception), as well a fresh strawberry.  There's a lady at church who makes heavenly coconut cream pies, and there was once a restaurant in Corvallis, Oregon, that made marvelous Apple Crunch and Lemon Angel pies.  I'm no amateur myself...  I'd never turn down a piece or three of my Peanut Butter Cream Cheese pie, and I make a mean Lemon Cream (funnily enough, from the same recipe I found decades ago in my circa-late 1970's Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook).

Some excellent meals came out of this
cookbook, my friends...  "Fish In Foil", "Peachy
Beef Stew" (OK, that wasn't so good) and
Creamy Lemon Pie!

Cookbooks devoted to pie are also rather fun, and I've never found one better than Killer Pies by Stephanie Anderson.  Highlighting cafes and diners known for their pie in each region of the United States and Canada, Anderson's book is filled with exciting pie ideas.  There are the obvious apples and berries, but then she lists things like S'mores Pie, Manitoba Maple-Walnut Pie, Sour Cream Raisin and Wet-Bottom Shoofly Pies.  This is one of the few cookbooks that I take down from the shelf, time and time again, just to read and dream of what pie I might make next.  I would have loved to have helped with the research on this cookbook.



So, what does this have to do with First Ladies and Blogging?  Well, I'll tell you...

One of my favorite authors, and a generous and supportive one at that, has proven to be even more talented than I'd previously thought.  Not only is he the world's preeminent expert on First Ladies (he wrote the landmark, two-volume First Ladies, a must, must read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject), but he's also an avowed pie lover.  Carl Anthony also happens to have a blog that is both fun and enlightening.  First Ladies, dogs, American pop culture, dogs and, of course, pie are just some of the subjects that pop up on his site.  Two of my recent favorites took readers on an intimate, and well-illustrated, tour of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport and the former home of Gerald and Betty Ford in Palm Desert.  So, in the interest of promoting First Ladies, fellow blogger and...  pie...  I highly recommend a visit to Carl's blog, Carl Anthony Online.



I don't know about you, but all this talk of pie has made me hungry...  I'm off to see where I can find a good piece of pie!

Someone loved the pies at Don's Cafe in
Reedsport, Oregon, so much, they made this
video in it's honor...  I can understand,
they make amazing pies, including Butterscotch Pecan...
Yum!

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