In the Kitchen with Karen

First, I will don my way cool apron that my friend from Canada sent me, and that has the Canadian word “Eh?” written on it in really flamboyant letters.  Of course, putting on the apron isn’t going to actually keep me from having flour all over me by the end of my culinary adventure – but I think I look sort of cute in it. And that’s the important thing.048

Next I will haul the turkey out of the fridge, where it’s been thawing since Sunday. I will dice home-grown onion and garlic, apples from our orchard (yes, apples – using apples in turkey stuffing is a Karen tradition – because I, traditionally and invariably, FORGET TO BUY CELERY!!! and then I find myself scrambling around the kitchen, looking for something crunchy I can throw in the dressing… and… yeah… well… apples …and, true to tradition, I just realized that I, once again, FORGOT THE CELERY!!!), and toasted Dave’s Killer Whole Grain Bread (the bread will be toasted, not Dave).  I’ll sprinkle sage and rosemary over everything that’s within arm’s reach (this includes the dog, the cats, and the sons). Then I will yank out the turkey’s innerds, and replace it with toasted Dave, and put the whole shebang in a pre-heated 325 degree oven.

Pie-making comes next. I love making pies. There’s something kind of comforting about pie-making. I especially love making pies when there’s rain pounding against the windows, and a fire in the woodstove – the rain adds a certain ambiance, and it looks like we might be getting a lot of ambiance today.  I’ll combine the flour (2 cups), and butter (2 tbs, plus 2/3 cup) and water (6 tbs) in a bowl, and then grab half of it and roll it out on a floured cutting board, and lay it in the bottom of my glass pie plate. The bottom crust will be a picture of perfection – it will be seamless and smooth. Next, I’ll put the frozen blackberries that I picked last summer into the pie shell. I’ll add 4 or 5 tbs of flour, and 6 tbs of sugar, and loosely mix the pie’s filling.  Now it’s time to roll out the top crust and place it on top of the pie. The top crust is the crust that everyone will see. It will have holes and tears in it. That is another Karen tradition. Once I’ve got my holey crust attached to the pie, I’ll lightly sprinkle sugar over the top, to make the pie look sort of sparkly when it’s done.

By the time we sit down for our feast, our plates will be full of turkey, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon, and cranberry sauce, and we’ll be half-way through dinner before someone – probably one of the sons – will ask me about the dinner rolls. And they will either be burning in the oven, or still sitting in the cupboard. It is another Karen tradition.

May your holidays be filled with a feast of love and laughter.  And don’t forget the dinner rolls.

– Excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book

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The Cosmic Art and Meditation of Blackberry Pie-making

Yeah. I know. Weird title, right?  I was going to use the word “zen” in there – Zen and the Art of Pie-Making – and then it occurred to me I don’t actually know what “zen” means – so I thought I better just go with “cosmic.” For me, there is some spiritual “cosmic” something that I feel when I’m making a blackberry pie. Making pies connects me to wonderful memories…

When I was in grade school I was huge into Laura Wilder’s Little House books. I had great fun pretending I was a pioneer girl, living with my family in the big woods or on the prairie. I imagined living in a little house with a loft, collecting eggs from our chickens every morning, fishing in the stream, and picking berries for home-made pies. (I also imagined we had pet chipmunks – but that has pretty much nothing to do with this blog post.)

Some years later – the sun is warming my shoulders, the sweet smell of blackberries filling my nose, my hands carefully moving among the thorns as I gather the filling for next winter’s pies – Mom calls to me from the house to let me know a birthday gift for me has arrived in the mail from my boyfriend.  I smile, thinking of him, and carry the berries back to the house.  The memory of the sunshine of that day and the feel of the warmth on my shoulders and the happy feeling of knowing someone was thinking of me will all become a part of the pie filling, too.

Later still – when I was in my twenties – I lived next door to a woman who was studying to be a radio disc jockey. She also made amazing pies, and gave me her recipe for uber pie crust: 2 cups flour, 2/3 and 2 tbsp butter, 6 tablespoons water, and a dash of salt.  I don’t remember my neighbor’s name anymore – but when I use her recipe for pie crust, I remember her – remember her friendly smile and her wonderfully raspy disc jockey voice – and I smile.

A few Christmases ago my Nova Scotian friend, Kathi, sent me an apron with the word “eh?” written on it. I always wear this apron now, when I make pies.

Today – the rain is lashing against the house, a fire burns cozily in the woodstove, and Louis Armstrong sings What a Wonderful World on my stereo as I create Blackberry Pie.  I’ve got Kathi’s apron on, and I’m feeling like a self-sufficient pioneer woman as I roll out the pie crust – made from the recipe given me by my d-jay neighbor – and fill it with the berries I picked in last summer’s sunshine.  I am in my pie-making zone – focused on the things of the moment – rolling the crust, mixing the berries with sugar and flour for the filling, poking holes in the top of the pie and sprinkling sugar on the crust.  I am creating. And there is peace.

It’s all very cosmic.