Friday, April 23, 2010

How To Be a Pie Judge

Check this out! I got interviewed about being a judge at the National Pie Championships. Watch the video.
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You can view more video clips from the National Pie Championships, compliments of the American Pie Council.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Real Reason I Love Rhubarb

I've been raving about how rhubarb is my new favorite pie. But I don't think it's the bittersweet vegetable I love so much. It's the love. Period. It's the fact that my friends and neighbors have it growing wild in their gardens. They call me with such enthusiasm upon its arrival, excited about the red stalks shooting out of the ground after such a long and dark winter. They chirp like little robins in spring about how they can pick it for me to make pie. Then the picking process becomes an event in itself. Like the grief-soothing evening spent with Lyndsay and Andreas and their new baby. Like the delivery from my neighbor Sylvia who just brought over her third crop to share with me.
The pictures tell the story. Sylvia got a very warm greeting from Jack, then Daisy joined in. Sylvia felt so welcomed. There on my front steps I watched their love fest with a very big smile and felt a taste of happiness lift my spirits. All this heart-warming interaction because of an odd, stringy, root-like vegetable? No wonder I love rhubarb so much. As long as friends keep growing it I'll keep making them pies. Love Pies.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Heidi's First Pie

Friends of Marcus and mine, Lyndsay (Canadian) and Andreas (German), had a baby two weeks ago. I went to the hospital the day before Easter and met Heidi when she was less than 24 hours old. Marcus died 8 months ago, which means Lyndsay was pregant when she came to the funeral. I swallowed the lump in my throat but the tears still came while I held the newborn in the hospital that day. To every ending there's a new beginning, I reminded myself. This is the circle of life. Embrace it. I held her carefully, gently, in awe of her newness, her innocence.

It was one of those bittersweet moments -- bitter that Marcus isn't here to meet Heidi, bitter that Marcus and I couldn't get pregnant (we tried), and so terribly, terribly bitter that Marcus died. And yet sweet to see what new life looks like, so up close, so personal, so NEW, so miraculous. Sweet to see such hope and happiness for a future wrapped in pink cotton pajamas. (Or in the case of this future fashion queen, rastafarian overalls.)

Two weeks later I went to Lyndsay and Andreas' house to pick rhubarb from their garden and make them a pie. A pie with rhubarb -- rhubarb that bittersweet vegetable. The ingredient seems so fitting to think of it now.Heidi needed her first taste of pie, it's never too early to initiate her, I assured her parents. Not that they needed convincing. They were the ones excited about the pie. We turned the picking process into a family affair. Heidi even helped. Only fresh, organic ingredients for this little princess. Okay, well, she slept through the picking process (in the pouch of her proud papa), but she stayed awake the rest of the night.

I rolled the dough, chopped the rhubarb, threw in some sugar and put the pie in their oven. While we waited for the pie to bake I held the little bundle of joy. Eyes wide open, we had a staring contest. I talked to her, whispering to her that she's so beautiful and how much I'm looking forward to getting to know her, to watching her grow. I listened closely to see if she was sending me telephathic messages in response.
I felt rumblings from her tiny body -- all 6 pounds of it -- but the only communication I could decipher ended up being a dirty diaper. Babies are so cute but they sure do poop a lot! As a result of her prolific digestive system she went through 5 outfit changes during the course of the evening. And to think she hadn't eaten any pie yet.
Heidi was swaddled and lying in her pram, but she watched every move closely as I served the pie. I thought I saw her lick her lips at one point. Yes, she was salivating for pie. My kind of girl!
We polished off that pie in one night. Damn that stuff is delicious! As we rubbed our full bellies I wasn't dwelling on the bitterness any longer, only the pure sweetness. I was thinking about how much the new baby added to our evening together, suprised at how much I felt her presence (even though the only noise she made came from her diapers) and how just having her laying there next to us breathing and observing she contributed such positive energy to our gathering. I couldn't imagine Lyndsay and Andreas without her. She was part of their lives now. She was part of mine too. I already can't wait to go back and hang out with the family. I just hope the rhubarb grows back quickly so we can have more of that amazing pie.



1 (9 inch) deep dish pie crust (use your preferred crust or click here for instructions)

1 1/2 cups white sugar (or less)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten
4 cups chopped rhubarb

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Stir in eggs. Add rhubarb, and toss until thoroughly coated. Pour filling into pastry shell.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Another Dish Returned

At last! I returned from Mexico and got a lasting taste of tropical sun with the delivery of my ceramic bowl -- filled with luscious lemons. The fruit was hand-picked in Palm Springs, California and smuggled across the Oregon border by my neighbor. Though, come to think of it, bringing fruit out of California is okay, it's just forbidden to bring it in. "We don't want your backyard fruit flies," the Californians say. "Yeah? Well, we don't want YOU," the Oregonians have been known to retort in response to the swarms of human population moving north.

This neighbor -- this "Bad Borrower" -- lost points for lack of timeliness but gained a few back for following the "never return a dish empty" rule. Which is not my rule. My rule is "return it clean and promptly." Still, the lemons are lovely. And I got my bowl back. So all is forgiven. Oh, and did I mention, I loaned this same neighbor a jacket and a blouse a few weeks ago? Maybe I'm an "Ignorant Loaner" or a "Slow Learner." I'll have to think about that and get back to you.