Over about a two and a half year period a few years back, I made oodles of traditional pie crusts using flours from local farmers markets as well as the bags that I bought off-the-shelf at the grocery. I tried different fats and brands of butter, adjusting the combination and amounts, finally tweaking the ratio of Flour:Fat:Water more times than I can possibly remember.
Each dough, crust and pie was tasted by me and the wonderful folks who came by the house including postmen, delivery men, husband, food writers, friends and neighbors. The pies were taken to Slow Food potlucks, picnics with friends and to restaurants where willing chefs and staff tasted. Everyone was generous with their feedback.
When the general consensus among the tasters seemed to be “THIS is the one!”, it seemed a good recipe to stick with.
For an additional 6 months, I kept right on eating those pies. Then I found out I was on the brink of Celiac and my doc said that I could go one way or the other with the condition. It was a no-brainer to me. No more gluten.
I continue to make the same crust and folks wonder how I can do it without tasting along the way. Well, after making a heck of a lot of doughs, crusts and pies it becomes a craft, one that is honed with time and practice.
When I taught piano, I would say to my students, “We learn technique so we can forget about it and make music.”
It’s the same thing with pie.
I know exactly what that crust tastes and feels like.
I know when I touch, smell, see and listen (Yes, I do listen to dough!) how it is going to turn out.
I have learned to put the recipe aside and let my hands and heart take over.
I have learned technique so I can forget about it and just make pie.”
In Bloom’s essay, “Consuming Prose: The Delectable Rhetoric of Food Writing,” she mentions at least nine characteristics of food writing:
1. Food is an intrinsically significant subject.
2. Food writing emphasizes abundance.
3. Scarcity is not an option.
4. Food writing emphasizes its human contexts.
5. Readers and writer are allies in the text, and therefore in life.
6. Readers must trust the integrity, authority, and therefore the judgment and tastes of the authorial persona.
7. Readers are looking for insight, entertainment, relaxation.
8. Readers dont’ have to know much about food (though writers do) to enjoy reading about it.
9. Food writing is evocative, full of human emotion, energy, sensory details, sensuality.
In her blog, “Art of the Pie,” Kate McDermott writes about making pie crust, but in a way that truly encompasses many, if not all of these characteristics. Obviously food is significant and important to her. She wouldn’t be blogging about it otherwise, and she wouldn’t be willing to spend the hours she talks about putting in creating the perfect pie crust, if it wasn’t something she cared about. McDermott shows us through her dedication that food is something she’s passionate about, and that insites passion in the reader. She certainly emphasizes abundance, and disallows scarcity, stating that she makes “oodles” of pie crusts, trying to get the perfect recipe right.
Her food writing is very connected with the human state. She says “Each dough, crust and pie was tasted by me and the wonderful folks who came by the house including postmen, delivery men, husband, food writers, friends and neighbors. The pies were taken to Slow Food potlucks, picnics with friends and to restaurants where willing chefs and staff tasted.” Her writing is all inclusive – everyone was able to help test the pie crust, and no one was excluded. She goes on to talk about how passionate she became, and how well she knows her pie crust, and then, with surprising frankness, her decision when she found out she had Celiac’s disease, a death sentence for a passionate baker. However, she rallies with her readers, bonds with them, and talks about the difficulties she’ll have creating a gluten-free crust, but deciding to do it anyway, for love of, well, pie.
Her easy going manner and frankness about her condition certainly make the reader trust her. And her writing is above all, “evocative, full of human emotion, energy, sensory details, sensuality. If “I have learned technique so I can forget about it and just make pie” isn’t convincing enough of her joy and passion, I don’t’ know what is.