Category Archives: food and cooking

How do I love pie?

As I looked forward to National Pie Day — today, January 23rd — I’m afraid I let my thoughts swirl into heady daydreams that were like gusts of wind that pick up bits and pieces of litter here and there and then suddenly drop the lot in an untidy jumble.

First thought: Oh, Pie Day is coming again! I must bake a pie!

Maybe another Pear Pie, as at left?

gl birthday berry pie 3-16Thought #2: If I am going to all the trouble to make a pie, I might as well do more than one kind.

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Harold and the Purple Crayon

#3: If I am baking more than one pie, I better invite some guests to help me eat them.

#4: Why not plan for 3-4 kinds of pie, and have a Pie Open House, say from 4-7 p.m. on Pie Day, to accommodate the schedules of several friends. glp-pie-nothing-but

Another chain of events and thoughts brought me to my senses. Last week at our agape meal I was served a big slice of cheesecake, enough pie to last me a month at least. And this morning I reviewed my short-term goals and realized that Pie Day does not facilitate them…

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(The above picture is of my own Amusing Lemon Meringue Pie)

Goals? Since when do I have goals? I am certainly not the goal-oriented type, but I am trying some wintertime goals this year that involve: 1) spending time in a large room that needs a thorough sorting and organizing, and it’s not the kitchen; and 2) ramping up my exercise to recover strength I’ve lost in the last two years or so — also not going to happen in the kitchen.

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Leek Tart

If you let me count the ways I love pie, it might be that I love the idea and history and symbolism of pies more than the eating of them. I remember my grandma and a friend named Kris, either of whom could put together a pie and have it in the oven as easily as some of us butter a piece of bread. There was the time we watched my daughter Pippin form the first rustic galette I ever saw made, one of the select few pies ever to come out of the difficult oven in our mountain cabin. I recall happy days in the kitchen with the counters — and sometimes floors — white with flour, when I would revel in being able to accomplish this kind of nourishment for the body and soul.

In later years it has been easy to take pictures of these pastries, each one a unique event. When Mr. Glad was still my fiancé we never thought of taking a picture of the first pie either of us had made, as we worked together on it and laughed (afterward) about the Pie Predicament we ran into. But it is the one part of that Thanksgiving feast that remains in my mind.

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Vegan Pineapple Coconut Pie

When I am reading the recipes and remembering pies of the past, or rolling out the crust — or especially admiring one fresh from the oven! —  I’m energized with creative joy and the idealism of family love and tradition. When I sit down to eat my pie, I am faced with — my weakness. I am one of those people for whom the wholesome enjoyment of that first bite quickly turns into a passion of the wrong kind.

Pie as an ideal and as memories brought me to the creative satisfaction of writing this post. Pie as a reality becomes something I too often consume with a lack of reverence. It’s not too late for repentance, you say? That is true; we must never stop repenting.  🙂  I won’t refuse gifts of pie, but this year at least I will let my celebration be mostly in words and pictures, without spending a whole day at it.

One thing I might like to do today is look around Blogland and see if any of you are baking and/or eating a special pie today. I will love to look at your pictures and celebrate together!

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Muddy creek and spicy cake.

gl-1-9-pine-branch-img_4080A big branch fell from my Canary Island Pine last night, just missing the lemon tree that we intentionally planted under its leggy canopy, hoping for a bit of frost protection; I hadn’t thought it might be a dangerous location instead. It’s been very blowy and wet in these parts – lots of flooding in the county, though not in my neighborhood. Today came a break in the rain, so I walked again along the muddy creeks.

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I was surprised to see this tree looking like Autumn. How could it still hold on to its leaves through the gale? I guess our winter is very like some people’s Fall. gl-1-9-cotoneaster-with-robin-jan-9-2016

It was cool, not cold, the air as fresh as can be. A hundred robins would startle and rise up in a swirl out of the cotoneaster bushes when I walked past, and then settle back down to eat the berries. One is sitting in this bush but he is hard to see.

Big limbs had fallen from eucalyptus trees along the path, and in many places the pavement was strewn with redwood cones and needles. I was alone the whole two miles of my loop. gl-1-9-eucalyptus-downed-branches

Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty,
give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders:
the LORD is upon many waters.

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privet

A few of these words from Psalm 29 were quoted by our rector on Sunday, referring to the storms that, surprisingly, didn’t force us all to stay home. My youngest two children and I memorized this Psalm about 20 years ago. I think I picked it for them because of all the vivid imagery like skipping, flames, cedars breaking, hinds giving birth. It still thrills me, and is indeed a good Psalm for stormy weather.

The thought of gingerbread came to me out there on my winter walk. So I came home and put together yet another version of Wheatless Gingerbread. This time it was even gluten-free, because I used the flour mix from Minimalist Baker.

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It came out lovely and light. This time I also added milk powder and used butter… I think I might still be able to improve on this recipe in various ways, so I should try to make some again soon.

We’ve been keeping the stoves busy in our house. Someone even cooked her chicken breast and handmade tortillas on the wood stove last week. Keepin’ cozy!

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Taking the cure with Rumer.

Is it unnecessary and even unprofitable to analyze my reading habits? Why not just read what I like? Because I don’t seem to know what I like, or what I have the strength for. In times of stress, such as in my current bereavement and during my husband’s illness before that, the intellect still jumps at the chance to read books of theology or philosophy, so I have gone on acquiring stacks of them… only to find that my mind will not be engaged enough to get through the first chapter.

Or, I try a “good novel,” hoping to be pulled into the story and have some vicarious excitement. Aha – that is the problem, as I realized yesterday, sick and sitting by the fire with a quiet book. I need rest, not excitement. I need, as I wrote a few years ago about another novel, to embark on a reading journey “as one takes a needed vacation or The Cure at a sanatorium.”

Rumer Godden is a writer whose presence on the pages of her fiction or non-fiction is always strangely comforting and nourishing to me. I suppose my recent acceptance of weakness led me to take her China Court off the shelf, after passing over it for years. Lately it seems that I have almost daily been wandering among the four rooms that house parts of my library, as I look for the Right Book. As I held this one in my lap I mused about why it is that.

When you need to heal and build strength, where do you like to be? Me, I like to be either alone in an orderly and comfortable place, or with kind and gentle, competent people who take care of the place and might even cook for me. If there is a garden attached, and lovers of trees and flowers who might 27a16-p101064228129fruitstandgardenstroll its paths with me, all the better. I could sojourn in this place indefinitely, until I felt in my bones the renewed energy that would prompt me to go home and dig in my own garden or clean house.

Being in Rumer Godden’s books is like that. And China Court is especially so, because it is about a well-appointed house and the generations who have lived and worked and died there, servants making up beds with fresh, age-softened linens and a grandmother who secretly hand-picks little bouquets for her favorite people to find on their nightstands. It has the drama of stories going back a hundred years, if you want that, but it is mostly about being there with real humans, many of them quite sympathetic, and of course none of them requiring anything of me.

I haven’t read too far yet  🙂 but I was charmed by this one scene and wanted to share it:

In the big house in Cornwall the large Quin Family gathers downstairs while breakfast is being cooked in the kitchen nearby. As the father Eustace reads from the Bible and prayer book… victorian-range

The smell of bacon drifts across the Lord’s Prayer — always for Eliza, the two are mingled, though she does not, at that age, get any of the bacon — and as the smell rises Eustace increases his pace….breakfast is waiting; the children, upstairs, have porridge and milk, white bread and the second best butter; but for Eustace and Adza the morning-room table is laid with porridge in blue and white plates, cream, brown bread, muffins, honey and rolls, while the bacon keeps in a silver dish over a flame, with another dish of kidneys or sausages or sometimes kedgeree.

-from China Court by Rumer Godden

Do you wonder what kedgeree is? I had never heard of it, but when I read on this page Kedgeree and saw the picture, it made me want to try making some myself. Sounds tasty!

Last week I was frying something using bacon fat left over from our Christmas feasting, and the smell of it warming in the pan brought back happy memories of my father and his mountain cabin, my grandma’s kitchen… it was curious how nourished I felt, before I had taken a bite.

I enjoyed reading about this Victorian Era breakfast and the well-supplied kitchen and staff that produced it. I sipped my tea before the fire, glad that I long ago graduated from the Porridge Upstairs stage of life, because I do like a little meat with my breakfast, though I haven’t tried kidneys yet. Winter days are cozy when taken with Rumer Godden, some bacon — and of course, prayer!

Happy-making baking.

Cookies! That is to say, baking cookies is happy-making for me. Really, the only time I do it is at Christmastime. It’s a creative project that I can do alone and without any pressure or expectations from anyone else. If I’m successful my cookie platter will have a balance of colors, flavors and textures, and include something for everyone’s taste.

This year Pearl and Maggie got me started – they came for several hours on a Saturday and we made six kinds of what we think of as Christmas cookies. Some were traditional for me, and a couple were new.

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One of Maggie’s ideas was to make meringues, and she did that beautifully. I wanted to make some Peppermint Cookies that we have done several years. But we were so busy I forgot to take many pictures.

 

 

Yesterday I finished up what we started of the Ginger Spice and Chocolate Macaroons…

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And I baked a new kind of cookie — Christmas is the only time of year when I take the time to try new cookie recipes — that I found in Fine Cooking magazine: Winter Stöllen Cookies. They were a good bit of work, requiring the chopping of candied and dried fruit, and two kinds of dough that are layered and rolled up jelly-roll fashion. Then you freeze the dough and slice it to bake.

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You are supposed to brush the rounds with butter before and after baking, and dust with powdered sugar afterward. I skipped the afterward parts for most of the cookies I made, because I didn’t want them to be too sweet. I also didn’t want to hide the swirl in the middle that was faint to begin with. I don’t know what the purpose was of that layering of dough.

I probably won’t make these again; they are too soft and cake-y for my taste, though I did like the burst of tart cherry flavor. (I see now that the description calls them “tender.”) We’ll see how they rate with the rest of the family.

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So much kitchen momentum developed yesterday, I began imagine two or three more recipes I could revive, or try for the first time — but then bedtime arrived. Today tasks like housecleaning are calling me, and late tonight the first of my children will be arriving. But maybe, just maybe, I can squeeze in one more batch….

If I manage to take a picture of my cookie platter this year, I will post it here, and also share another recipe, after we come back from celebrating. If you bake special cookies for Christmas, I’d love to hear about them.