Disclaimer. I am not a food blogger. I am much too lazy and food blogging is hard. You have to cook things and then take pictures and edit pictures. And then write things. Good god, I have crime shows to watch! (But if you need some good food blogger recommendations my two favorite food bloggers are Iowa Girl Eats (Midwest represent!) and Biscuits and Such. I have never had a bad recipe from either of them. And that says a lot, because some of you out there…)
I love cooking. But I only have a few things that I make really well. Pizza dough is one. I’ve been making pizza almost every Friday night since Dave and I got married. This is because when we got married we were poor, but I wanted pizza. But I was also having a hard time finding a job. So, I started making pizza. I finally got good at it around year 5. I blame yeast, that saucy bitch.
Anyway, I do this. I fixate on a food I want to make well and just spend a long time making it over and over. A few summers ago, I spent the whole summer experimenting with the perfect key lime pie. I made it so much that Dave literally looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve had enough pie.”
And that is saying something, because Dave loves pie. He comes from a family of pie eaters. When he was four, he told his grandma he would only marry someone who could make pie. We had pie instead of wedding cake. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM TELLING YOU?
When I admitted that I like cake on family vacation, Dave’s nephew looked at me and said, “You can’t be a Lenz if you don’t like pie.” He is five.
Dave’s dad used to joke that I was so different from the rest of the family (I hate baseball, I think sports movies are mind-numbing and terrible, I don’t even know who Kirby Puckett is), but it was my pie that brought us together.
This year, because I like being judged by old women, I decided to put that pie to the test and enter it into the state fair. Spoiler alert: I did not win anything.
Entering the State Fair is a lot more complicated than I first realized. There are approximately 377,694,457,889,898,783,752,853 categories for pie. Approximately. And trying to figure out the right categories and the tags (staple or rubber band, no tape, must be affixed to the plate itself, not the packaging) made my mind melt. Just reading the rules challenged more of my analytical thinking skills than that one six-page run on sentence in The Sound and The Fury.
I also made this pie so much this summer that Dave, at one point, raised his hands in defeat and said, “You need to give some pie away. I can’t eat all of this!”
I love how food is so complicated. Food is so much more than nourishment. Food is love. It’s connection. Food is a means of communication. It’s an expression of identity. And apple pie even more so. Because that dessert has become synonymous with our national identity. Which is funny. Because apples are just scrubby little immigrants themselves. Imported from Europe and cultivated and curated by the colonist. Apples have almost as many varieties as there are personalities in this country. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It is remarkable how closely the history of the Apple-tree is connected with that of man.” During my summer-long pie adventure, I discovered the horror that is store-bought Granny Smiths. Long reputed to be the best baking apple, the Granny Smiths I’ve found in the stores have a spongy, bland texture when baked. Their skin is so bright and promising. But their meat lacks the sharp, apple tang. I hate the the taste has been bred out of them. They are now just pretty with no substance.
Braeburns are what I love. Pink Ladies too. Both of them aren’t quite glamorous. More like freckled-face beauties. But even more than that,I love the ugly tart apple that we pick from Dave’s grandparents farm. It doesn’t have a name. It just came to be. Grandma Betty tells me, “Oh it just popped up and it’s okay for cooking. Don’t eat it though, you won’t like it.” The skin is a dirty red, smeared with brown, speckled with black spots. The meat is mealy when you cut it. But when baked, well, you hardly need sugar.
The sour cream apple pie that I make is also, something that just popped up out of somewhere, perfect. It’s a recipe from my mom’s friend. I’ve tweaked it a little over the years. Filled in some gaps (what kind of sugar? A little less flour.) It doesn’t look like much. Brown, smeary, I like to gussy it up with caramel. But it’s delicious hot and even better the next day cold, with a melted bit of cheddar cheese over it. So here is my pie. The pie that when I made it for Dave’s dad, he said, “Who cares if you know Kirby Puckett’s number, if you love to make food like this, we’ll have you!”
Part of me cringes when I think about that because, for a woman, it makes me feel like food is supposed to be my currency for being valued. But I know what he meant. He meant, if we have nothing else, we have pie and we have love. Welcome to the family.
(I really miss him sometimes.)
Here is the recipe for the pie. Just so you know, my crust recipe is wonderful and it is almost directly from the Joy of Cooking.