Apple Pie - A Love Story
By Justine Olivia McCloskey
Photographs by Karly and Justine McCloskey
A golden lattice-crust pie sits on a cloisonée window sill, it’s amber filling still molten hot and steaming. Just beyond, a crisp breeze coaxes a rainbow of leaves into a quiet dance, carrying with it the aroma of a happy homestead. The scene is quintessential to our acceptance of the changing seasons. Spring heralds the tart and fragrant Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, while autumn welcomes the warm aromatics of Pumpkin and Apple Pies to fill the void that Niagara Peach Pie leaves at the end of August. In Ontario, Canada, our summers are brief and fleeting. The resplendent sun that once gifted us plentiful warmth and sangria now withholds its embrace and ushers in countless days of snow and darkness. But, as that sun turns away, it bestows on us such bounties, what can we do but turn these harvested gifts into relics and delicious memories?
The sweet pie has been in the culinary lexicon for centuries. There is something so universally delicious about wrapping things in buttery, flakey pastry. Look at the shape of a pie, round and plump and full of promise. It asks us all to gather around it, a circle of friends and family slicing and dividing, sharing in the fruits of our labour before we retreat into our cozy shelters. Apple pie epitomizes the best aspects of this culinary staple: sweet, tart, salty and spiced. It is a deeply personal dessert. Each family has its variation, ancient secrets passed down through generations. Each decision, to lattice, to egg glaze, to crimp, to pie bird or not to pie bird, a clear reflection of the sacred importance of all steps in the process.
Apple Pie is the pinnacle of seasonal celebration. Culinary heroes glorify this pastry, raising it up to cult status. Even in my own household, apple pie holds a special place. It was the food my mother craved most when she was pregnant with my younger sister. She sought out the best crust and the perfect filling, experimenting with and adjusting recipes she found in hospital waiting room magazines and hand-me-down cookbooks. As children, my mother took us apple picking yearly, an excursion that would always end in a homemade pie we happily made together. I peeled the apples, my sister measured out the sugar and cinnamon, and my mother brought it all together as we watched her gently roll out the dough and place it in a wobbly aluminum dish. Sitting on ratan bar chairs that were just a little too high, my sister and I would watch and wait as the room filled with warmth and mouthwatering notes of spice and butter. When my mom finally pulled it out of the oven, the excitement was insurmountable. No matter how much we whined, we were always reminded that we not only had to wait for the pie to cool, but we should also wait for our father to get home so that we could enjoy it together.
The joy of a pie is the experience of eating it with others. It is the perfect potluck contribution, an intimate gift to a lover, an ideal way to spend an afternoon in a diner with colleagues, cup of coffee in hand. I can’t imagine a time I have made a pie for myself alone. It seems almost sacrilegious to do so, for the comfort of it is found in enjoying the warm, flakey, bejeweled slices at a bustling picnic table al fresco, or while laughing around the fire after a family feast. Tender crust to be savoured and wiped off the mouth while sharing stories, the gooey filling turning plates from porcelain to stained glass. There is ritual in pie. It is alchemical. You forage the ingredients with loved ones, turn butter and flour into golden pastry with the caress of gentle hands, and fill the house with the smells of sugar and spice as mouths water, culminating in a round and voluptuous invention. It begs to be sliced and shared, beckons to be kissed with a flourish of ice cream or a cloud of chantilly. Pie is the perfect vehicle for sweet dreams or savoury drippings, a parcel of tender and toothsome delight. The fact that we refer to the crust as a shell only affirms that it carries within it a hidden treasure.