“It should feel like your ear lobe,” she said, pinching her own. I reached up and did the same, noticing the softness as I tugged the fleshy part of my ear.
She handed me the ball of dough so I could squeeze a piece, gently rolling it between my thumb and forefinger. “It does feel like an ear lobe!” I said in wonder, amazed that my grandma could make ears out of dough.
I was around ten years old at the time, and it was the first of many pie-baking lessons with her. Lessons that I now share with my daughter, who turned ten last month.
Her teachings fall naturally from my tongue,, “Be sure not to overwork the dough or your crust will turn out tough,” which was her greatest fear.
How much sugar to add? “It depends,” she’d say, tasting the berry for its tartness and adjusting the sugar accordingly, or adding more water if it looked like the dough wasn’t coming together.
And like I did with my grandmother, every summer around the Fourth of July, my daughter and I walk over to the neighbor’s house to ask permission to pick their cherries.
“You have to pick them right before the birds want to eat them,” she’d taught me. And I say the same thing to my daughter as we climb up into the trees, searching for the perfect fruit.
Pie baking is a thread that connects four generations of my family. My favorite is cherry, although strawberry-rhubarb comes in a close second. Both were my grandma’s specialties, and they are mine, too. I think they’ll be my daughter’s as well.
Because in my family, pie baking is not a lost art, it is a living tradition. A special, almost sacred ritual that is as much about love as it is about pie. A love that is passed from one generation to the other, through the time spent together learning to roll a perfect crust, to the stories that are shared while it bakes in the oven, pie is love.
And I am passing on that love to my daughter today.