This is How You Make a Pie

By Anna Mitchael

Live. Learn. Repeat.

A pie moment. Defined as a moment you find yourself standing in your kitchen with flour, sugar, water, butter and shortening, but realize you have no idea how to put those ingredients together to make a proper pie crust. It has never seemed important to you, learning such a task. That was something your grandmother did and then your mother did, and you always just bought a premade crust from the store or asked if you could bring an appetizer instead of dessert.

And then, truth be told, went to the store to buy a premade appetizer.

But now, for reasons not at all related to “have to” or “need to” or a looming Thanksgiving dinner, for reasons that have everything to do with a deep desire to dig your hands into dough and roll it so hard that the individual ingredients become lost in pursuit of the whole. Or maybe so that, for a few moments, you can be lost — now, you desperately want to know how to make a pie crust.

Making a pie from scratch is not the diminutive, domestic task you once reduced it to, back when you were sure you had all the answers. Now, the only thing you are sure of is that you have no answers. But you feel this is a step in the right direction, and right now it seems wiser to trust intuition than what everyone else claims to know.

So, you feel your way through the depths of your pantry and procure a measuring cup. Maybe you scare up a dusty recipe from a tucked-away cookbook.

You do your best to conjure up the image of your grandmother standing in your kitchen. You think seriously about inviting your mother to come over. But the same voice that brought you into the kitchen today and told you to gather the ingredients tells you to try it alone. This is a process you need to figure out with your own hands.

You try your best to combine the ingredients into some semblance of a shell, yet at the end, when the construction comes out of the oven, it is a far cry from what could be found in your grocer’s freezer. You’ve heard people refer to good cooking as art, and now you think maybe it is. Art is never as easy as it looks.

You may not have been paying attention to how your mother and grandmother made their pies, and you might be too proud to ask now, but you did learn something from the women who raised you — a lesson they taught you time and again, in and out of the kitchen — not to give up.

And so. With an intensity you have previously only mustered for love of a man and love of a child and approval of the world, you keep trying. You roll pies until the slivers of unused crust stack into a pile, thousands of Pillsbury dough men waiting to be tummy-tickled.

After so many tries that your fingers are tired and your joints ache (affirmation you did wait too late in life to learn the task), you realize you are no longer making the crust to prove to yourself you can do it. You no longer want to show anyone that you had it in you all along. You simply want to know where you came from. Who you came from. Which parts of that history you want to keep with you and keep alive. Briefly, you think of feeling shame for all the store-bought pies because now you know what an affront they were to the women who raised you. But you also understand why none of them came right out and told you so.

You imagine their fingers crossed in dough, hoping you would see the bigger picture. Eventually. And because they let you learn on your own, you feel their love pulsing through every cell of your body.

Another lesson you will never forget.

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