When I was a little girl I remember being enthralled with the pies that my grandmother made for Thanksgiving. Mom and Grandma had a deal…Mom would make the meal and Grandma would make the pies. Although Grandma wasn’t a particularly good cook, she did love to make pies and was good at it. We would usually have pumpkin pies, apple pie, mincemeat pie and perhaps a huckleberry pie. Towards the last of Grandma’s life, Mom took over the baking of the pies…or should I say, I did with her guidance.
We have a bar area in the kitchen where we would often sit and eat a snack or meal. Mom would sit at that bar and direct me on what to do. At that point, we were using store bought pie crusts. Mom showed me how to roll out the pie crust and set it in the pie plate. We then crimped the edges and used a fork to put holes in the bottom of the crust. Then we would go through the procedure of preparing the pumpkin pie filling. Mom would read me the recipe and I would add the ingredients and mix the filling. Soon enough, we had our pies in the oven and adding a wonderful fragrance to the room.
Next we would start on the apple pie. We began by getting the crust ready and then began the process of pealing the apples and slicing them. Mom would tell me what to put in the apples, using a lifetime of knowledge to tell me what to put in the pie. There were no recipes used, just experience that told the cook what to put it the pie. Placing the pie crust on the top of the pie was always a bit of an adventure for me. I didn’t have years of experience to easily transfer the crust to the top of the pie. After we had crimped the edges and had knifed in the vent holes…Mom had me separate and egg and use the yolk to wash the top of the pie.
There were a lot of happy and sometimes not so happy learning times for me with Mom at that bar. She taught me how to bake cookies, pies, make meat loaf, her taco salad and spaghetti. It was our classroom and my test was the meal and or pie that followed. There were some bad mistakes at times, some things that were barely passable and as I got older and more experienced – my cooking got better and better…all under Mom’s tutelage.
This week as I begin the process of making Mom’s Thanksgiving favorites to take to my brother’s home for Thanksgiving – I will think of Mom sitting at that place at the bar. As I sat at the bar myself, I still never sit in the place that she did. Even though she isn’t there physically, I feel her there. During that Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, I will bake the pumpkin pies, apple and mincemeat pies and prepare the candied sweet potatoes and the jelled eggnog Bavarian which have always been mainstays of our holiday meals since my child hood. It is a solitary job that will take several hours of solid work. I’m not really alone though…Mom is there with me and so is my grandmother at least in spirit. As they completed the same work years ago for our family meals they were showing their love for their family. It is my turn to do the same thing.