Recently I’ve found myself spending an excessive amount of time thinking about apple pie. I get distracted from whatever task is at hand, stop and ponder what my usual process is for creating one.
First I create a crust. I always stick with a recipe that I’ve refined over the years, one that I now bake with pride. While some may swear by shortening, others even use might choose to use oil, I’ve found my successes have happened by using simple, unsalted butter. I mix the dough with care, cutting the butter into the flour mixture in a very specific fashion. I’ll admit in my ponderings, I soon notice, being that the ingredient list for my crust is quite simple, I often find my mind quickly wanders to the next steps.
Before ever baking a pie, I select multiple varieties of apples. I find using only one type of apple is not my style, while it may bring uniformity in texture, it lacks a bit of creative, flavorful flare. I only use green apples, sometimes choosing to use Granny Smith or Fuji, other times Jonagold or Golden Delicious. After they’re sliced carefully, I add some sugar and plenty of spices, especially cinnamon. But I wont continue to bore you with the actual details of the process.
My mind lingers on the memory of the aroma the apple pie creates while baking in my oven. The thought of that baking hour is one that brings joy to me… or at least it used to.
Truthfully, more than anything when I’m contemplating apple pies, I find myself not thinking so much about the technique and the how to. Mostly I find myself focusing on one question that continues to barrage my mind…
Will I ever bake an apple pie again?
Apple pie was my dad’s favorite. When I was five or six years old, I started making him apple crisps, and I remember how much he loved arriving at home to find one freshly baked. After several years of baking him innumerable apple crisps, I remember him raving about apple pie actually being his all-time favorite. He mentioned that often. I remember him fondly talking about his sister making the best apple pie he’d ever had, and what he would give for a slice of it.
I took that as a personal challenge.
Soon I made it a tradition to bake dad a pie for his birthday. He would savor every bite of the pie, singing its praises (even though I know the earlier pies weren’t nearly so spectacular). Every year he would anticipate the arrival of the birthday pie, and every year I was happy to deliver it, still warm from my oven. Occasionally I would make a pie here and there, just to share and give him a reason to smile. And as a bonus, I usually made one for Thanksgiving, too.
But I haven’t made one in over a year, not since the last Thanksgiving I had with dad.
I. Just. Can’t.
I think I want to bake a pie, and yet I hate the idea that I would even consider it. I want to overcome this impass, but I’m not sure I’m strong enough yet. I want to create something to honor him, to compose a show of strength that he instilled in me, but I feel to weak.
And this all sounds a bit ridiculous when I realize I am still speaking of this in the context of apple pie.
I’ve avoided this idea for quite a while now. I spent last April 28th, my dad’s birthday, travelling across the country. It was the first April without my dad, as he’d died only two months prior in February. I couldn’t believe that, even though I was on the East coast, I still felt the void of not making him his pie. Granted, I felt an even greater void in knowing I wouldn’t see his smile as we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him and felt the greatest void knowing I couldn’t give him a simple birthday hug.
And now I sit and let my mind wander. I keep looking at the calendar, seeing my dad’s birthday quickly approaching, and I can’t help but think about the apple pie I would like to make. And I wonder if this year I should actually make one again.
I know the ingredients are readily available. I know I’ve pretty much perfected my recipe. I know my family wouldn’t mind having some pie.
But I also know one more thing: no matter how hard I try to create the perfect apple pie, no matter how much love I try to bake into it, no matter how precisely picked the ingredients are, the pie will not be the same.
Yes, the pie will still be an apple pie, it’s just going to be unavoidably bitter-sweet.