“The dance of pie is the dance between the perfect and the beautiful.”
—Grace LeClair, Pie: family recipes, how to’s, and stories
Today I have a sweet treat for you! Here is a collection of some of my new pie paintings, thanks to the scrumptious and delicious baking of my friends, Lisa Yelagin and Anne Gerr, who own Pie + Tart bakery. (Unless otherwise noted, the paintings depict pies made by Lisa and Anne.)
My paintings are accompanied here in this blog post by the writing of my friend, Grace LeClair, from her wonderful cookbook/memoir/ love story: Pie. *
“Pie: Family recipes, how to’s, and stories”
by Grace Le Clair (excerpts)
Pie holds an almost mystical place in my family. The crust that contains the filling, the roundness, the alchemy of turning raw fruits of field and tree into something touched by hands and fire and thereby transformed, filling the mouths of those we love.
And pie is just as down to earth as it is mystical— celebratory of the simple pleasures of a task well done, a day in the field, shared food, sweetness and good company. Pie is a plain food, touched by hands. I cherish the crimp that holds the bottom and top crusts together, evidence of the hands of the maker.
My hands hold the memory of my grandmother’s hands as I repeat her motions, crimp and turn, crimp and turn. It is from her that I learned that we perpetuate eternity by our actions of the moment, small things that by their repetition make enduring patterns….
Giving and Receiving
For me, pie brings up the larger topic of giving and receiving. I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents on their farm. My grandfather came in from his fields and sat at my grandmother’s table that was always ready. “Drink, Ma,” he would say. “Bread, Ma.” She bustled to provide these things, a meal of meat and potatoes, then pie.
“It’s not up to my usual,” was my grandmother’s introduction to her amazing pies. It was her preparation for and defense against my grandfather’s strange but consistent response to them. His first bite and the table grew quiet, waiting for his verdict, too often a gleeful cry of “Sowah!” the liftng of the crust and dumping of sugar on her marvelous filling, tender blend of apple cinnamon and sweetness. If the pie was not deemed “sowah,” it might instead be “s-w-e-e-e-t.” Once in a while, very rarely, a pie would merit the stellar rating of “pretty good.”
“Since you don’t seem to like my pies, I won’t be making them for you anymore for a while.” That’s what I imagined her saying, but she never did. She continued her sweet and sour blend of artistry and martyrdom, giving consistently in the face of my grandfather’s seeming unwillingness to receive.
Last Thoughts, Good Wishes
The dance of pie is the dance between the perfect and beautiful.
To find pie freedom, imagine you are making one hundred pies and this is just one, about to be devoured by the most appreciative audiences…
The joy in giving pleasure overcomes the fear of imperfection and failure. The celebration of beauty—all those fruits, all those round shapes, all those dear friends in the kitchen, all those beloveds eating pie.
The encounter with flour and shortening and salt, fruit and sweetener, the gentle tossing, the rolling, the heat, the waiting, the aroma, the cutting of the pie. This is the same vulnerability we have all the time. Is how I am OK? Is what I bring to life enough? How is my offering going to be received?
“It’s not up to my usual.” My grandmother’s defense against my grandfather’s criticism is something I want to replace with a heartfelt, “here I am and here’s my pie,” a freedom partly dependent on assuring myself loving recipients and partly on the willingness to just be.
PS. Below are a few extra pie paintings, depicting pies made by my good friend Liza Feltimo. I felt like they wanted to be part of this blog post, so here they are.
*For your own copy of Grace’s cookbook, which is filled with stories and recipes, please email Grace LeClair: email@example.com