This post was written by Ann Schmelzer, Program Manager for Entrepreneurship and Diversified Agriculture at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
What is Thanksgiving without pie? Well, in my family’s house we have a name for it– it’s called blasphemy, but during one particular Thanksgiving it was almost known as reality.
My grandmother has been baking the same apple pie recipe for Thanksgiving since any of us were old enough to remember. The recipe came over with my great, great grandmother from Germany. Calling this pie a “Thanksgiving tradition” is an understatement of notable proportions.
The year of the great pie fiasco coincided with my junior year in high school. My mom and stepfather had finally decided that we were going to do Thanksgiving at home instead of our usual journey to Chicago where my mother’s side of the family lives. Junior year was notorious at my preparatory school for being particularly harsh, and I was looking forward to four days of blissful rest and recovery.
Thanksgiving morning there was a knock at my bedroom door far too early by teenage standards (circa 7:30 a.m.), and it was my mom standing outside whispering “Annie—Annie, you have to get up.” Of course I rolled back over pretending to hear nothing. Surely this was a bad dream, surely my mom would have the common decency to leave me alone on Thanksgiving morning… but the soft knocking and whisper came again. This was no dream.
My mom came into my room as I looked at her through sleepy, irritated eyes. She said to me “Annie, you have to come downstairs and fix the pies. They have to go into the oven now so that we can put the turkey in there later, and I can’t get them to work.” I recall thinking at the time “What do you mean you can’t get them to work? It’s pie-making not rocket science…” (I was only 16–at least I didn’t say it out loud)
Unenthusiastically I roused myself and began slowly walking downstairs. When I emerged out into the kitchen the sight that greeted me was, by all accounts, like stepping into a floured battle field. Flour was absolutely everwhere, and in the middle of the flour-insanity sat a lumpy, watery, pathetic-looking wad of dough that would have been far better suited to use for caulking the bathtub than pie crust.
In my mother’s defense, she is an outstanding cook; but, by her own declaration, she cannot bake. In addition to this, she was never allowed in my grandmother’s kitchen throughout most of the Thanksgiving Day preparations.
I am the opposite on both fronts. I am the woman that, when invited to dinner parties by anyone who knows me, gets the painfully polite “oh, um… I really think we’re all set, but if you want to bring a bottle of wine that would be great.” And, in a bizarre twist of genetic mystery, I can bake. Also, every year starting from about the age of four or five, I had watched my grandmother prepare the pies while playing quietly (so as not to get shooed out) with the leftover dough.
I don’t ever recall paying particularly close attention, but when I walked onto the scene in the kitchen that morning I immediately threw the “pie crust” in the trash and started over.
I worked diligently, with my mom looking on over my shoulder saying things to me like “that wasn’t in the directions… or that, or that.” My grandmother had given my mom the recipe over the phone, but like all true chefs, she may have left out a few, salient details.
Fortunately for us that year, the pies came out looking, smelling and, most importantly, tasting just as they always had– much to everyone’s relief.
This post was submitted for our Thanksgiving Story Contest using the submission form on the right-hand side of the blog. Submit your entry by Nov. 19 to be entered in a drawing for $100 in groceries, courtesy of Indiana’s Family of Farmers.