Thursday, November 02, 2017

Apple Time

Not my mother's apple pie but my daughter's. Just as appetizing and just as delicious!

It’s apple time, and that makes me think of Mama and how the kitchen smelled in the late afternoons of warm apples and cinnamon and buttery piecrust.

Mama was a wonderful cook. Her specialty was a foot high angel cake that always went first at church bakes sales, but what I loved best were her pies. She had a light hand with pastry and a generous one with fruit. Her confections always looked like the one in the illustration for “Billy Boy” (Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?) in my Little Golden Songbook. In the picture, the delicately browned crust rounded up over a mound of cherries and steam swirled enticingly from two large vents cut in the crust. The sight of that pie always made me hungry.

Mama often baked a pie for Sunday dinner. It went into the oven on the shelf over the roast, and as it baked, the fruit juices would drip onto the meat, basting it delicately in apple or blueberry or blackberry juice. Other times she would make lemon meringue, deliciously tart and sweet at the same time, or chocolate cream, my father’s favorite. I could never wait until the pie cooled thoroughly; many a time I burned my tongue on scalding fruit or steaming custard.

If there was an abundance of apples at one time, Mama sauced some of them. Then she would make a second batch of pastry, roll it thin, trace the shape of a saucer in the dough with a sharp knife, and fold it over a generous spoonful of applesauce. She would let me dip a fork in the flour and crimp the edges. I happily sprinkled cinnamon and sugar over each turnover and could hardly wait until they were baked. Cooled and in hand, they were my favorite snack.

It’s been years since my mother and I worked together in the kitchen but it’s apple time, and in memory of her I am baking a pie. I’ve fetched her old paring knife from the drawer, taken my bowl of apples outside and pared a dozen of them while sitting on the dreaming bench in the late afternoon sunshine.

I’ve taken her old china bowl from the cupboard, the largest yellow one, and tossed the apple slices with flour and sugar and cinnamon. I’ve rolled the crust with her old green-handled wooden rolling pin, remembering the shape of her hands as she worked, and the look of her face as she blew a stray hair from her eyes.

The pie sits on the counter, redolent and delicately browned, steam spiraling from the vents cut in the top crust. It looks just like the pie in the “Billy Boy” song illustration. It looks just like a pie my mother might have made…and I have just burned my tongue.