I would like to feel I am mythic: a hero, with a breastplate and sword, invincible.
Some days, though, I feel I am something else: a pie, on the table, consumable.
I am delicious, aromatic, all cinnamon sweet with tart apples wrapped in a tender and buttery crust. Do you know how hard it is to make a good crust? I use my mother’s recipe, from her mother; I come from a long line of personal pie makers.
Sink your teeth in. Everyone else does. How big of a slice do you want?
Nothing for me, says my girlfriend. Well OK, just a small piece. She’s calling for a listening ear. Life is complicated and messy and sometimes we need to talk it out to know how we feel and what to do next. She’s done the same for me, many times.
I need one proper slice, daily, sitting down with a napkin, after a good meal. That’d be my husband, accustomed to there always being some pie around.
My pie-providing is in our marriage vows. His work demands a lot of him, and he needs the replenishment. I, likewise, need his ear. He gives me his full attention and makes appreciative noises. Affectionate, he listens and encourages and sympathizes and steadies me.
Hey! Where’s the pie? Forkfuls are stabbed at odd moments right out of my tin, from around the edge or right out of the middle. My progeny’s teenage growth spurts, physical and emotional, demand nourishment, and there’s no substitute for pie.
There’s no planning ahead or scheduling—they might not partake for days and then it’s just suddenly pie time, could be afternoon or late at night, and they could take a small fraction to tide them over or the lion’s share. Making pie available at the right moment is important for their growth. I don’t begrudge it. I did sign up for their care and feeding, and there’s nobody I enjoy watching eat as much as these two, especially as they get older and begin to forage elsewhere much of the time.
Oooo, I haven’t had pie in ages! Mom’s dementia makes each day’s slice of me a prize that’s been unfairly withheld. Tomorrow she will look equally astonished and pleased and take whatever I can give her for as long as I’d care to spend. I dole up small slices regularly and remind her of her own pie-making and what she’s taught me. I am still her favorite—and only—daughter. She still recognizes my familiar shape, and for that I am grateful.
The rest are requests for thin slices, but there seem to be a lot of them.
Is there any of that pie left? My committees and community ask this when there’s a sticky problem, a tedious task, a delicate situation that needs a master baker’s touch. Pie makes everything easier. I’m told if I could bring some this weekend too, that would be great. It’s what I do. I believe in this community and in service as my highest good, and I want to feed everyone I can.
What’s left in my grandmother’s pie pan for me? Here’s a bit of crust, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I intended to partake, and to set aside a slice for my muses—they haven’t been fed in a while. But I rarely see much of the filling. I tell myself it’s enough. Who needs the calories? I’m saving the world over here. I was born to bake and serve.
But I love pie. When did I start thinking it was just for everybody else?
The pan is empty. At first light, I cut cold butter and flour together, roll out my crust into two perfect circles, pare and slice juicy green and red apples. I mix them with sugar and spices, fill the bottom crust, dot with butter, vent the top crust prettily with a cursive M for “Mmmmm” and Michelle, and seal and crimp the edges between my practiced fingers.
I set myself gently to bake. I become still; I bow and breathe. I brown slowly, perfectly, then set myself to cool. My essence wafts around me and waits. I breathe in, enticed. To become mythic, I need my share of pie.
Today, I decide, I will have the first piece.