October 11th 2021
“In this world nothings sacred In and out of bad scenes Always been a bad seed Loyal to my family Death always chasing me”-from dog to god -Prayers
Mothers are the glue that hold a family together. Well at least in my case. Im the youngest of 5 kids, my mother was in her late 30’s when she had me, she was in a period of reinventing herself while I was growing up. I want to preface that we had a complicated, but utterly devoted relationship. I was the first of the “millennials” on the cusp of “Gen X” raised by a boomer, so we tended to disagree on many things. Mom died in what I hope was peacefully in her bed, on her own terms, she died as she lived, her way, her rules. A talented and intelligent woman, she always tried to make the best of out of less than perfect situations. Mom loved Halloween, but when I think of her and my memories I think of all the Thanksgiving dinners she orchestrated.
When the restaurant was open she would cook there and anyone that didn’t have a place to go would just walk in and Mom would invite them to eat with us gratis. Many times people assumed we were open, we weren’t technically, but she would never turn anyone away. Mom’s thanksgiving menu’s were really a glimpse into who she was as a person, outside of my dad. A mishmash of Mormon pioneer heritage, French cuisine, cut out articles from newspapers and magazines. Of all the things she made, her apple pie by far was truly exceptional. I guess I could make this easy and just talk about her souvlaki, but that was more of her trying to please my dad than be herself. I want this to be a cathartic tribute to her and what our family used to be. Family get gatherings were always tense, we are a blended family which growing up I never thought was abnormal or weird, just how we were. We always had Thanksgiving dinner for better or for worse. Mom would start a few days before, and the shopping trip was always epic, sometimes going to several places to procure the goods. Mom would make at least 6 pies, all homemade, it was the only time of year she would make them, I would get the worst jobs, peeling apples, fetching items, and cutting the wax paper she would use to roll out the dough, I once tried to get her to switch to parchment paper to no avail.
I cannot change the fact that there will never be another Thanksgiving like the ones we had growing up, but I have my memories, Mom’s ability to make magic with flour, crisco ( I use butter but that really irritated her), salt, sugar, and apples. The hours of cooking time we spent together to please the family and to maintain ritual. I wish I would’ve appreciated it more, but regardless the pie will live on. Mom had a unique measuring system, 2 regulation size coffee mugs of flour, and one regulation coffee mug of butter flavor crisco and a few tosses of salt. I wrote the preliminary obituary and of course it was overruled early on, but the one thing that sticks out in being edited by my siblings, is that they said mom had “mastered the art of cooking” she most definitely had not and wasn’t even interested in that, cooking was one her many talents, but she never used proper measuring devices and was never particularly picky about sourcing ingredients, she had been in to many rough situations to be that precise. As I got older and learned more about culinary arts, she found my suggestions extremely pretentious and would often laugh at my perceived “fanciness”. I took some videos of her making pies last time I was there for thanksgiving and I wish I could find them because it was a hilarious look at our dynamic. “No Alexandra! Butter will make the pastry not flakey, butter flavor crisco is much better”, I would ask “is that a smoke point thing?” She would just look at me unamused and laugh it off. I know now that I will forever miss her perfect, imperfection and resourceful cooking.
Mom’s apple pie Filling:
6-8 apples (put a few tart ones in, stay away from red delicious, they suck)
1 lemon, zested, and juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced (I think this may be a variation I made, and would sneak in)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 T cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of flour (used to thicken filling as it cooked)
2 T butter cut into small pieces
Peel and cut apples, add everything but the butter, stir well, set aside and try to keep everyone from eating the apples before the pie is made (this was a thing, to the point mom would have me throw extra apples in so that when they would get eaten we would still have plenty).She would never par cook the filling, adding the butter right before she topped it with the top crust, she would let it steam inside the oven in the pastry, as long as it was cooked enough, sometimes over an hour, it would end up perfect, with just the right viscosity and fresh apple taste that gets lost in most versions . Her pastry was weird, remember in the 70’s (I don’t I wasn’t born yet) when they thought lab made margarine was “healthier” than butter? Mom was still kinda into that mindset, I do wonder how many years I will lose from growing up eating “blue bonnet” LOL! Coffee mugs were used to measure….I’m not kidding, and her 2 flour, 1 crisco ration was enough to make two pumpkin pies, and one double crust apple. I feel like everyone should make whatever pastry they like for pies, I don’t know if I could really replicate how she did it! I do mine with butter, its good. I often would cut out pieces of the spare pastry and make a little apple to place on top of the pie, and then I would usually get to egg wash it . We set the oven on 350, place the pie in usually on sheet pan, as the apples will erupt like a volcano through the 5 cuts on the top crust when its ready . This one I made in the pic, turned out really close to hers, my son ate half of it.