Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pie that's Humworthy

It happened nearly twenty years ago, and I don't even recall the flavor. I just vividly remember I have never seen a person so fully enjoy a slice of pie.

With each bite of pie, my coworker closed his eyes as if to shut out the rest of the world, and in his mind, went to a quiet place where he was alone with the pie's perfection. He chewed slowly and thoroughly, and he hummed.

Yes, he hummed.

I have never seen a person so fully enjoy a slice of pie, and I have to admit, I felt a wee bit uncomfortable. His joy and satisfaction seemed a bit orgasmic, like I'd caught him in a compromising position. I wanted to ask him if he'd rather be alone with his piece of pie.

Honestly, I was rather amused, and, frankly, a little jealous. I'd never tasted hum-inducing pie.

I'd grown up, uninformed and uninitiated into the world of pastry, with Mrs. Smith's frozen boxed pies. I certainly do not recall these fake pies causing humming or exclamations of delight. Perhaps if anything, frozen pies brought forth disappointed sighs; the promised pastry land did not deliver.

I wandered through life unaware of the difference between great homemade pies and pies you could get for three bucks at the local grocery store. If there was pie, I'd have a slice, but it was never memorable or life-altering or humworthy.

But then cue family vacation to South Dakota eight years ago where in Custer, SD, we stumbled into the Purple Pie Place. Frankly, I just liked the alliterative name and purple building, and pie acquisition was secondary.

After perusing the flavors of the day signage, I had to ask the purple people about Bumbleberry Pie. They explained there is no such fruit as a "bumbleberry," but rather the pie is a bumble or conglomeration of summer fruits like apples, rhubarb, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Sign me up.

With one bite, I had a new best friend...and so did my six-year old daughter, who I had to wrestle for bite number two. As my sweet daughter enjoyed the pie slice I'd relinquished, I heard the most delightful sound; a sound that made my mom's heart do a flip-flop of wonderment.

She hummed. Loudly. After each delectable bite.

My sweet daughter was a hummer. And not just any ole' hummer. A hummer of pie. Be still my heart.
My Pie Baby

At that moment, I knew one thing. I wanted to make pies so seductively delicious they'd make people close their eyes and hum dreamily.

When I returned home, my mission was to find a bumbleberry pie recipe worthy of the slice I'd loved and lost in South Dakota.

After much googling, I did locate the perfect bumbleberry recipe, and I've made it many, many times for my now teen daughter and myself. It was hum-worthy for certain, but something was still missing.

Frankly, my pies were missing a flaky, delicious crust.

Confession time: I was a pie cheater. Instead of homemade pie crust, I used the lovely, easy, non-messy Pillsbury roll 'em out, head 'em up pie crust cheaters, and all (most) were none the wiser.

When my guilt had finally consumed me, and when I realized I needed a crust as awesome as the fillings inside, I looked for help.

Friend and author Karen Karbo convinced me I could go cold-turkey on the boxed pie crust and *easily* make my own homemade crusts. Over at least ten emails, and from afar hand-holding, she coached me through my crust neuroses and celebrated with me when my first attempts turned out "not so bad."

Once I got past my OCD tendencies, the ones causing me to over-mix the shortening and butter until the dough was completely lump-free, my crusts started turning out quite nice. Thank you, Karen, for teaching me to make pies like this double-crust Peach Pie, just removed from the oven.

Peach Pie

I must say, pie has been good to me. Not only is it the most delicious, self-contained dessert ever, pie has also led me to some great friends.

In case you don't know, pie people tend to be damn fine people. Besides Karen, pie led me to my friend, Kristin, who helps me spearhead the Monona Pie Party. (Saturday, September 28, 2013) We're fairly formidable pie connoisseurs and bakers.

Pie has also led me to wonderful people like Beth Howard who sells pies from the Pitchfork Pie Stand located in front of the American Gothic House. She's selling these amazing Pie t-shirts on her The World Needs More Pie Facebook page.

I'm getting one, and I feel proud I can now "Make my Own D*mn Pie!"

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