Molly Fisk: Pie Chart

194312329_b5e6fdb410_zImage by jensteele via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This week I made two blueberry pies from scratch. I haven’t made a pie in years but I’ve made many in my time. Usually blackberry, which is my favorite, or apple, which seems to be everyone else’s favorite. I am not one of those people who can make a flaky pie crust. In my family, after a certain amount of struggling with Crisco and not touching the dough with our hands, which is what those good Midwestern pie bakers advise, we gave up. The Fisks do not like to struggle. We use a French galette pastry recipe that has butter, egg yolk and lemon juice in it, and you don’t even have to roll it out, you mash it into the pie plate with your fingers.

The response to my blueberry pies ran the gamut from people who’d never made a pie to those who described the last pie they’d baked in minute detail and opined on which was a better thickener, flour or tapioca. Although we live in a world of fast food and declining creativity, I think there might be a lot of closet pie-bakers in my town. Let’s look at the demographics.

The largest slice in the pie-chart of our population is old ranching and mining families. You know the women from those families can bake pies, and make flaky crusts, too. For years they’ve picked fruit from their own trees and canned it for winter. They make ten pies at a time and take them to church bake sales. It’s in their honor that America has been defined by Mom and apple pie.

The next-biggest piece of the pie are the hippies who moved here in the 1960s and stayed. These people were trying to live off the land fifty years ago. They can bake pies in their sleep, in dutch ovens over an open fire, using ingredients none of us have ever heard of, like agar-agar. No self-respecting hippie would be caught dead not knowing how to make granola from scratch, age his own cheese, and bake road-kill into a pie.

We also have three smaller slices for retirees, young families who cashed out in the real estate boom, and miscellaneous artistic riffraff like me. The retired women can bake, it’s a hallmark of their generation. Maybe they’re sick of it but if you force them at gunpoint, you’ll get a decent pie. The young parents are too busy with kids and jobs and Netflix, unless they got hooked by Martha Stewart early on. If they do bake, I’m betting it’s biscotti or tarte tatin. As for the riff-raff, it’s a toss-up. I bake because my parents did, and I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder when I grew up. Some one else might have wanted to be a 10th century Japanese poet — ancient Japan sadly being a culture in which pies do not figure widely.

Aren’t demographics wonderful? They explain so much. And it’s handy to know that if you really need a pie, you can probably talk a neighbor into baking it for you. However, if all else fails, our town is blessed with an orchard that specializes in pie. You can run up there and order almost anything, knowing what you get will be delicious and home-made.

Those pies have flaky crusts and never, ever contain anything killed on the road.

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  • Judith October 4, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Please send out your pie crust recipe— would love to just “mash it into the pan” instead of rolling!

  • Sally Mayock October 3, 2015 at 10:56 am

    I love baking,and sharing food.Pie is the easiest but people don’t realize