Apple pie ala mode and a glass of cold milk

By BARB LUMLEY Columnist Published:

What could possibly be better than a warm slice of apple pie a la mode, accompanied by a glass of ice cold milk? As you bite down into slightly firm apple slices surrounded by a yummy mix of sugar and cinnamon, topped with vanilla ice cream, a happy and satisfied feeling comes over you. Of course, it doesn't have to be apple pie. It can be blueberry, cherry, black raspberry, chocolate, lemon, the list goes on and on. Pie is a national icon, a state fair tradition, a holiday staple. Pie is not just a dessert. It is the star of church suppers and family picnics. Pie can be a comfort, a joy, or even a refuge in dark times. Pie can distract you from worries. A piece of pie on a dark and dreary day can raise your spirits. How enjoyable it can be to meet with friends over pie and coffee.

Pie dates back to ancient times. We didn't invent the dish, but it is quintessentially American. The Pilgrims brought their favorite recipes with them to America. They baked pies with berries and fruits pointed out to them by the Native Americans. Of course, we all know the saying, "As American as apple pie"! National pie day is Jan. 23.

My mom was a good pie baker, but I found I couldn't learn how to bake pies from her. She didn't measure anything! She just sifted some flour in a bowl, added some lard and mixed. When it was well mixed and crumbly, she added just enough water to make it come together and roll out. I pored over cookbooks and hunted recipes until I found the one that worked for me. According to my husband, I make a pretty good pie. There is a certain classifier for the Holstein Association who always makes sure I know when he will be working in Ohio. His favorite pie is cherry, and I usually bake him one, but it didn't help any the last time he classified a 2-year-old for me! My favorite pie is pecan, however being the chubby person that I am, I make it only at Christmas time. Then every New Year's eve I make a resolution to diet. My cousin, Polly, makes the best graham cracker pie ever! Try as we might, no one in the family can make one that tastes as good as hers. Her pie disappears fast at family gatherings!

And then there is Aunt …….'s pie. She is a really great person and we all love her dearly, but her pies are terrible! When my Dad passed away, there was lots of food brought to the house, and Aunt ……. brought pie. Just before we left for services my cousin, who was in charge of the food, whispered in my ear, "What am I going to do with Aunt …….'s pie? I can't serve that to people!" My suggestion was that she take it out and feed it to the dogs and then we could truthfully tell her that it had all been eaten. After a few minutes my cousin came back into the house shaking her head -- the dogs wouldn't eat it!

I always worked outside with my Dad and had little interest in housework and learning to cook. Give me a team of horses and a piece of machinery and I was in heaven! So when my Mom suddenly had to go to the hospital for surgery, and the custom combine man was coming to harvest our grain and expecting to receive meals each day, I was in trouble. At the age of 11, I had learned to cook hot dogs, mashed potatoes and green beans from the garden. A good friend and neighbor came to help me prepare the meals -- she was 10. But when her mother dropped her off, she sent along a lovely big lemon meringue pie. Dessert was covered! So for two days in a row the combine man ate hot dogs, mashed potatoes and green beans with pie for dessert. Before he left he told me how much he liked hot dogs, mashed potatoes and green beans. He was a very nice man!

Thanksgiving is coming up and Christmas is right behind it. The holidays can be a very stressful and hectic time. Make sure you take a break, just relax and indulge in a piece of a delicious pie of your choice. Things will go better!

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