Saturday, September 20, 2003

A Slice

My walking partner and I canceled our walk this morning because there was a downpour just as we were preparing to leave our respective condos. So the boyfriend and I lounged around the house most of the morning. He eventually dozed off on the couch watching TV while I was across the room doing e-mail and reading blogs.

The rain didn't last long, but it's been overcast all day--a rarity here. It's still warm though. About 11:00 we went to the beach, armed with our sand chairs packed with all of our favorite beach provisions and ready to do some serious kicking-back. Most of the locals don't go to the beach if it's overcast, even though it's still in the 80's and the water's warm. So picture this: a mile-long stretch of white sand beach that's lined with palm and sea grape trees and borders a tranquil, blue/green bay (it's like swimming in a bath), and we're lounging in our turquoise sand chairs under a sea grape tree. And the best part was we had the entire middle section of the beach virtually to ourselves the entire 3-1/2 hours we were there. Heaven!

I always take reading material to the beach. Even though I had already grabbed Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer" (which I'm savoring at a leisurely pace) and the current issue of UTNE Reader, at the last minute I grabbed "American Pie" off the bookshelf. If you're not familiar with the book, it was written by Pascale Le Draoulec who got the (brilliant) idea to turn a cross-country drive into a search for perfect pie. This is my kinda gal...and my kinda book. I read it last year after seeing her interviewed on CNN on Memorial Day. I remember it vividly because I remember thinking: what a great summer read....because I LOVE PIE.

I've had such a pie jones recently that my walking partner called me from her cell phone on the way to do some grocery shopping a couple of weeks ago and offered to pick up a pie for me. (I'd been extolling its virtues during that morning's walk and had given her an appetite for one, too). Now, I didn't want to have to actually BAKE a pie. This is a bit embarrassing to admit at my age, but I've still never made one. Hence her offer to grab a frozen one for me. She called me a short while later to tell me that the pie freezer was nearly empty...and what was there was of no interest to us. (We were craving a specific deep-dish Mrs. Smith's apple pie.)

A couple of Xmases ago, my stepmother sent me a rolling pin, pastry mat, pastry cutter, her favorite quiche cookbook and her fail-safe recipe for pie crust. It was very sweet of her and it inspired me to tackle quiche for the first time in my life. I've since made several, and they turn out quite well if I do say so. But I still haven't made a fruit pie.

Maybe there's a part of me that fears I'll be hugely disappointed in any fruit pie I attempt to bake because surely it will pale in comparison to those made by my Italian grandmother. She baked a lot of pies in her lifetime--and I ate as much of it as she'd let me! Her crust was perfect and flaky. ("Short" being the correct baking term, I guess.) She could make any kind of pie and they were all world-class: apple, blackberry, cherry, peach, rhubarb, custard, lemon meringue, pumpkin, mincemeat.

My grandmother has been gone for 18 years. I was the oldest of her six grandchildren and I adored her. I could always make her laugh, which always made me feel good. She was an incredible source of love and comfort and calm strength during my dysfunctional upbringing. I could never quite bring myself to tell her exactly how much she meant to me, even though I loved her fiercely. I cherish my memories of her and they continue to bring me solace when I need a comfort hit. I've always said if I could be one-quarter the person my grandmother was then I'd leave this life feeling like I did okay.

I'm sure I love pie as much as I do is because of her--even though no one else's pie will ever measure up to hers in my mind. But all I have to do is take a bite of pie...and instantly I think of her...and know that she's looking down on me...from her little slice of heaven.


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