The best thing you can do to celebrate anything is to eat.
Today, as just about everyone in America celebrates our country’s birthday, a million grills will be ablaze as my fellow citizens cook all manner of dead animals and vegetables.
Normally, this is what the Rambler family does on Independence Day. My father’s hobby is grilling, so he’ll try to cook up a masterpiece of a steak or two for us, along with chicken and fish and…there now, I’m drooling.
This year, for reasons I don’t have the time to relate, we will not be grilling tonight. We’ll be eating out. That’s the other really American thing to do, apparently.
But, as any true American can tell you, there is nothing more American than apple pie. There’s a reason the simile “as American as apple pie” is in existence.
So today, instead of grilling, I did the patriotic thing. I made apple pie. A friend of mine did the same thing and tweeted a few pictures of her creation, and I felt inspired. Pie was going to happen today.
I cannot cook. I am better at making a royal mess in the kitchen than I am at actually making edible, yummy things. But I can bake. Allow me one moment of bragging on myself. I can bake. Baby, can I make a mean dessert.
Perhaps that’s nothing to be proud of. The ability to clog the arteries of my family and friends can hardly be considered a commendable pastime. This is perhaps why I’ve tried to reform my villainous ways and turned to clean eating, smoothie making, and sautéing vegetables.
But today’s a holiday. And there was this pie crust recipe I’d been dying to try. Hence, pie.
Normally I use pre-made pie crust. But they put some suspicious-sounding, completely unnecessary, and probably carcinogenic chemicals in those puppies. My inner hippie did not approve of consuming such nonsense today. If I was going to make apple pie, it was going to be healthy apple pie, dash it all. I like being in control of what I’m putting in my system. The only logical course of action was to make my own pie crust.
Now, when I embark on a new endeavor, such as making pie crust from scratch for the first time, I do not take the most efficient route. This is how I learn. I learn by making a huge mess and cleaning it up, so I’ll know how to make less of a mess the next time. Needless to say, there was flour all over the kitchen for about an hour while I made this blame pie. I have a feeling I’ll be cleaning flour out of crevices in our kitchen for about a year.
Making the crust went very well. The ingredients stirred up very easily, and while putting the little balls of sticky dough into freezer bags for rolling and chilling was a bit of a messy ordeal, I think I managed okay. Trying to roll those wads of dough into crust, however, was mildly disastrous. The tore. They cracked. They crumbled. They stuck to the rolling pin. They did not want to submit to their destiny. Not without a fight.
After my top crust has splintered into a few major continents, I patched them together with bits of dough to make a kind of Frankencrust. I then went to pick it up and move it to cover the pie filling. Not surprisingly, it fell through my fingers into a pile of dough-fetti, which lay on the cutting board, mocking me.
I mooshed those suckers back into submission and re-rolled them. My mother then had the brilliant idea of rolling the crust loosely around the rolling pin and unrolling it again over the pie like a doughy venetian blind. This worked like a charm. I started folding a crimping the edges, happily trying to make them look as attractive as the Frankendough would allow.
That was when I remembered I forgot to add the butter.
I had only crimped half the pie. Always one to improvise, I unrolled half the crust up and away from the filling, exposing half of the brown-sugary appleness. I took my one tablespoon of butter and dotted it into half of the pie. Half of the pie will therefore not be runny. We’ll have options.
The crust in place, lumpy and odd-looking though it was, I cut in vents and pushed it into the oven with a triumphant “ha!” Mind over pie crust. Bam.
Forty-four minutes later, out comes a pie. It is not a perfect pie. But, by the flour in my hair and the vegetable shortening under my nails, it is my pie. I worked hard for it. I sweated and fussed over it. And soon my family will partake of its homespun deliciousness.
There ain’t nothin’ more American than this here apple pie.