This is pie. It is apple pie. Apple pie is the best. Dinner, dessert and especially breakfast, apple pie it is. But a Perkins apple pie just won’t do, not even when it’s served by the sweetest girl who ever walked through the wheat fields of the Kittitas Valley, and who tells the greatest stories about her mother’s apple pie when you ask. But I digress. This is pie.
Perkins pie is likely made from Winter Banana apples out of a can, or maybe Granny Smiths. They are great for putting into a can because they don’t change their shape or texture when cooked. Or flavour. They keep the same flavour they had when growing on the tree, sucking up those nitrogen fertilizers like nobody’s business, which is this: no flavour at all. Now, up in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia…oh, wait, Hi, Winter Banana!
Well, up in that fault between two chains of volcanic islands, the story is that an oblate priest, Charles Marie Pandosy, invented the darned thing back in the 1860s because he had a green thumb, but, no. No, that’s just one of the lies that makes this land into a retirement haven — a kind of way of leaving the world behind. “Winter Banana originated around 1875-76 on the farm of David Flory of Cass County, Indiana and was introduced commercially in 1890.” Read all about it here. Pretty apple. Tastes like wax. Bruises if you breathe on it, even. It’s put into pie because it’s a great pollinator, and then what? No one will bite into the things, so pie it is. People, don’t do that to yourselves! Perkins makes great burgers and great lemon meringue. You can spare yourself the apple thing. You can tell a pie by the burnt edges, the wild fork technique, and, if you have a sharp eye, the flap of repaired crust in the foreground. You know it’s the real thing, because it follows the basic principle of pie: it doesn’t matter how much you wrestle with it, or how much of a mess you make, or how imperfect it is, if you hadn’t spirit wrestled with the spirits that want to make fun of you on your way to pie you wouldn’t have pie, and then where would you be? Nowhere. Hello, pie.
Now, pie-making is a mysterious craft. Put a piece of pie in front of anyone in this country, and they’ll examine the flakiness of the crust like a group of velcro salesmen around an alien autopsy, and, chances are, they will find it’s not right. It doesn’t flake just right, or it’s, well wonky (see above), or something, but, you know, my mother made one pie a year, out of tradition, with tears, and my mother-in-law made pie like it was nobody’s business, and with a smile, and you know what? Everyone ate both of their pies right up, so let’s not worry. Tonight, we have pie. It’s cooling upstairs as I write this.
Tonight we have pie, and that is enough. That I made it out of the apple I share with a bear, the Fintry apple, which makes exquisite pies, well that’s my secret. You too can grow a Fintry. Just ask. Now, may I please show you a pie made according to Betty Crocker? Be warned: my pie doesn’t look like this.
See that golden crust all the way around? Betty (she is not real, dears) says to put tinfoil around the edge so it doesn’t burn, and then to take the foil off for the last fifteen minutes. Have you, and I ask seriously, ever tried to tear rectangular pieces of tinfoil off on a serrated guillotine attached to a flimsy cardboard box? What about bending them into crescents? And getting them to stay on? Yes? Without searing your skin on the oven rack? Or bleeding on the guillotine thing? No, I thought not. So, I experimented, right, and, well, you don’t need tinfoil. Actually, that’s a no-brainer, because if you had to do that, you would get angrified, and there would be no pie, and you want pie, right? Of course you do. Now, look at Betty’s pie above again. See? Hardly any apples in there. My mother-in-law grew up on a farm. She learned to cook when cook books didn’t have teaspoons and all that stuff listed, just which fingernail to dip in for what measure, and as for apples, well, she set me straight on that: don’t core the things, and don’t slice them into wedges. Chip them off the core, small pieces, and pack them. Mmm. Look at Betty’s pie: half empty. That’s hardly fun. A pie should be as self-supporting as a fine cake. It should be more than an apple, not less. It should speak apple, and better than you. So, let’s remember the rule of pie (all together now): you can sweep the floor later and scrape off the stuff you strewed, wash the apron, and take the peelings away from the fruit flies to the compost heap, and wash up for a half hour, and then, with old friends, just enjoy that there pie, because, and here’s the secret, it’s way better than Betty’s. It has apples in it, and Saigon cinnamon, and a flaky crust, and those apples are Fintry apples, although you can use Gravensteins, too, as they are very fine and buttery, almost caramel, and, sure, it took a lifetime, but so does love. It’s not a race, or even a competition. It’s pie.
If you give your time to it, it will give it back.