Deane's Blog

baking

Thunder Cake

FamilyDeane Watters2 Comments

A few weeks ago, while our granddaughter, Lucy, was visiting solo for a few days,  I brought a book down from the attic that had been given to us in 1991 when our youngest, Hannah, was three years old. In Thunder Cake, written by one of my favorite author/illustrators, Patricia Polacco, a Babushka (grandma) notices that her granddaughter is very afraid of an approaching thunderstorm. Pulling her from under the table the wise old woman teaches her to count out loud from the moment she sees a lightening strike until the thunder rolls. This calculates how many miles the storm is away from them. Her early counting proves that it is a long way off, so there is plenty of time to mix up a Thunder Cake  before the storm hits. The task of pulling together the ingredients for this cake makes for a fun story. Scampering outside to collect eggs, trekking to the barn to milk the cow, and skipping down the path through Tangleweed Woods to the dry shed were easy tasks made stressful with the impending storm, quickly approaching. Lucy and I were also experiencing a rainy day so this was a perfect time to make our very own Thunder Cake! I plopped Lucy up on the counter, wrapping her in my old fashioned apron. The recipe in the book  led me to realize that all the ingredients weren't in my cupboard, but at least I didn't have to go out and milk a cow, so I made do with what I had, making a few simple substitutions.

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Everything went well and we produced a delicious chocolate Thunder Cake and had tons of fun in the process. But the next day, Hannah visited, heard what we had done and quietly lamented one fact.

"You never made a Thunder Cake with me!"

I admitted that even though she and I had read this book many times, we had never taken the time to bake the cake. We had not lined up the ingredients, measured them out, mixed them up to produce one humble Thunder Cake in all those years.

Is there a lesson here for me? Probably lots of them, and I could beat myself up for never having baked that cake with Hannah. I'll admit, I was tempted. But I went on to recall that Hannah and I participated in  many other amazing projects during those busy younger years of homeschooling and raising a family. To nurse any guilt or bemoaning self talk concerning this situation is a waste of good guilt! My current life presents me with a more relaxed view of time and I hope to not miss any opportunities to experience fully the joy of life with a young one whom I adore. But I will do what I did then...I'll do the best I can.

I offer kindness to the younger me of Hannah's childhood and I also project kindness into the future for  ways the older me will do the best she can. I might fall short but sometimes it's just plain good enough to do the best we can.

I know this is a small thing and no one was hurt by this small decision, or lack there of,  but by practicing self kindness in the small things, perhaps I'll be ready when bigger regrets race out to greet me in the future.

Even though, Hannah, the next time a storm is on the way,  I'm here, ready to get those ingredients set out on the counter with the challenge to get the thing baked before the storm arrives. Come on over. It will be great fun and you have waited long enough to experience it. Maybe I'll even let you lick the spoon.

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Why the world needs more pie

Deane Watters5 Comments

Would you close your eyes for a minute?  Could you bring up an image of your favorite kind of pie. Where are you? Who is with you? How are you feeling? Once settled into the memory, take a knife,  cut a healthy sized slice and place it on your small plate. A cup of coffee sits ready nearby as you pick up the dainty dessert fork. Slowly and carefully place your fork into the pie point which breaks off easily as you slip the fork underneath. Carefully lift that pie-impaled fork to your mouth and insert the sweet, warm, juicy, oosing piece and place it on your tongue. Close your lips and stop for a second, to enjoy the sensation of heaven as it melts over your taste buds and then begin to chew. The flaky crust, the sweet filling, the rich buttery smell take you somewhere else every time. Think of that place. Take some time to savor the recollection.2015-01-23_0004Where did you go? Did someone special make that pie for you? Or was it one that you labored over and gave away? What was the occasion? Was it a happy event with people you love? Or perhaps this triggered a sadness that comes through grief or loss. Pie has a way of filling our senses not only with itself, but with numerous memories to go with it. My mother used to make pies. She was also known for wanting people to be happy! (Just ask our kids about her grilled cheese sandwiches.) So after preparing several crusts, one would be filled with my favorite, banana cream and the other with my brother's pick, lemon. I can see those delicious pretties sitting on her kitchen counter waiting for us to slice into them after our Sunday dinner.

After marrying into the Watters family I found that pie-making went beyond opening a box of pudding and cooking it up. It was a fine art and there were things I needed to learn!   Brian's Aunt Alice made her delicate flaky crusts from pure lard taken from the hogs they raised on their farm. There was NOTHING like those pies and by the time I came around she was an expert. (The tale, heard often from the elders, was that their hired man, Fred, had the audacity to always put ketchup on his piece of Aunt Alice's succulent pie! The only consolation was that Fred put ketchup on everything. This tale was told with much laughter and the shaking of heads.) Our family usually traveled to their house for Thanksgiving and were greeted by a house full of relatives hungry and ready for a delicious feast. Those dinners were amazing with the pinnacle being a slice of pumpkin or apple pie slathered with a huge scoop of ice cream. Oh my.

Brian's mother's pie making ability was equally spectacular. Her specialty was rhubarb which was new to me before becoming a part of this family. A patch of rhubarb grew out behind the shed and she'd pick it fresh and tart before we arrived and when we walked in the door, there it would be tempting and taunting us with its rich, sweet fragrance until dessert time.  It was always worth the wait. Those grandmas really knew how to fashion the most flaky crust with divine fillings. Last summer I baked up a rhubarb pie and took it over to Bickford Cottage and treated her with a piece for old times sake. 2015-01-23_0007 2015-01-23_0008I think she liked it.

I imagine it sparked a few memories from her 95 years of living.

The ability to make a good pie crust was such a "big deal" that several years ago my two most-favorite-girls  joined me for a little pie crust making class. It was great fun and we certainly had a delicious treat to enjoy afterwards.2015-01-24_0001When Greg married our daughter,Hannah, I found that he preferred that I celebrate his big day by baking him a birthday pie instead of cake. That was not new to me though because Hannah felt the same way! When their birthdays come around, Hannah gets something lemony and Greg is usually presented with a blueberry pie.When I question him as to his preference, he graciously answers, "Whatever you make, Deane, is always my favorite." Oh, I love that guy. 2015-01-23_0006A few years ago my friend Gwen and I heard that the author of  Making Piece, Beth Howard, was going to be in town talking about her book! We hadn't read it but we knew that she was a pie maker currently living in the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa. Not only did she live there but she also taught pie making classes in the house that Grant Wood made famous in his painting, American Gothic. We headed down to New Bo Books to join in as she shared her story. We both bought her book and, of course, asked for her signature. I haven't read the book yet but I hear it is quite the read! Howard has since moved from the house in Eldon and is pursuing new adventures that I'm sure still involve pie. You can learn more at her blog: The World Needs More Pie.2015-01-23_0003

2015-01-23_0009She has since written another book, Ms American Pie, full of her favorite pie recipes with gorgeous photos to accompany each. I can't wait to buy it! Her blog informs that she is working on her third book, recalling her life in the American Gothic house.

I was especially impressed one evening while watching the news to see that Beth had traveled to Newton, Connecticut after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She rallied a group of sixty volunteers to bake pies.Then for the next several days she stationed herself  in the downtown area handing out fresh and free pieces of apple pie to the people who walked by. It was her way of "doing something" after the unthinkable tragedy struck that community. I love the creative way she thought to "minister" to those in such pain and shock.

Beth writes, “Pie is meant for sharing. Pie connects people. Pie knows no cultural or political boundaries. Pie makes people happy. And happy people make the world a better place. That’s why the world needs more pie.”

My world is a happier and better place because of this guy, the one who savors a bite of almost every pie I have ever made...even the flops! He has been my true inspiration to learn all I can about how to make a better pie.

2015-01-24_0003I encourage you, on this National Pie Day, to savor the many memories you hold dear connected to pie. They will make you happy and, being my mother's daughter, I agree with Beth when she  says: happy people make the world a better place and we would all benefit from that.