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August 17, 2008

An affinity for pie dough

I’ve been baking pie all summer, having decided it was a very good way to honour summer fruit (and keep some around for the dead of winter), and also because it has never once been so hot that turning on the oven has been ridiculous. (I was also inspired by watching Waitress.)

This summer I’ve made strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry pie, raspberry pie, peach pie and blueberry pie. Each of these pies has also had its filling run into the bottom of my oven (which I never clean) and so a smoke-filled kitchen has become the usual. Each time the pastry has been delicious.

As you can see by the photo, when I bake I make a mess. I do clean it up afterwards, of course, but what you can also see by the photo is my grandmother’s rolling pin. I know very little about the origins of said rolling pin, and it is quite likely she picked it up at Zellers in 1998, so it is probably not a valuable heirloom. But I find that I like that it was hers, I like that I roll out my piecrust with it, the pin she would have rolled her own piecrust out with. Genetics aside, my grandmother and I never had a whole lot in common, and so I appreciate the connection that is this.

In my family, people like to take one another apart to figure out how we were constructed. My mania for pie-making, for instance, my mother wonders about, for she’s never had much of an instinct for pastry. I think she wonders if I was a changeling, and so it brings her some comfort to attribute it to an atavistic pie gene instead. To tie it back to my grandmother, but I resist this. Mostly because I am twenty nine years old and would like to believe that I am a singular creation, not the product of anything, nor susceptible. I am ME, and I bake pie because I do, and also because I really like to eat it.

My grandmother was good at all grandmotherly things, very dutiful and I’ve saved the notes she wrote me when I was younger, admonishments, some of them, to be a good girl. Never a demonstrative woman, it was through these gestures, like her pies and like her cookies, that my grandmother showed her love. And so it is unfortunate that I, in addition to pie-baking, have always had a talent for delightedly irritating people of my grandmother’s sensibility. For asking questions like, “So, if your name is Helen, then your nickname must be “Hell”, right?” You can see that I’ve always been adorable.

I took my grandmother’s rolling pin when we cleaned out her kitchen after she died, mostly because I didn’t have a nice one. I didn’t think much of it, pie after pie, for such a long time– that my hands, like her hands did, are rolling out the dough. That object, the rolling pin, had been in her cupboard and that it lives in mine now. I never suspected that we’d come to have this much in common, this affinity for pie dough, and it took me awhile to admit it was anything in common at all.

These things creep up on us, I think, the innumerable ways we can be wrong about ourselves, who we are, and the whole wide the world around us. The connections discovered, too late it seems, but maybe not. The bits and pieces we carry, how they can become invested with meaning, continuing life on and on.

4 thoughts on “An affinity for pie dough”

  1. Joan says:

    What a tribute to Grandma. How beautiful. “Hell” would be trilled.

  2. naya says:

    Lovely entry. And thinking about all those pies you’ve been making has made my tummy grumble. 🙂

  3. Rona Maynard says:

    You’re making me hungry! For connections between past and present, as well as for pie.

  4. Kerry says:

    An update from my Aunti: “Just wanted you to know that the rolling pin is no Zellers’ ’98 special. It’s been around as long as I can remember. I suspect Grandma was given it as a shower present!! (perhaps by someone who had met Grandpa, and knew she could use it for something other than pie-making — only, alas, she never did).”

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