My Very First Pie

Soon friends and family will be here with us at the lake. I figure it’s time to expand from beer, brats, and fish fry to other menus worthy of a woman who thinks of herself as a good cook. Except for the art of dessert, that is. My sister Randi is the dessert queen of my family of origin. And when one sibling has taken hold with such surety in one subject area, my tendency has been to step aside.

So, until a few days ago, I was a cook of only two desserts: one, my mother’s strawberry shortcake, and two, Randi’s blueberry tart.

But during January, or February—anyway, one of those dull winter months—Paul and I had a dinner party. I slaved away in the kitchen and produced a credible meal, but I did not make dessert. The standard inquiry, “Can I bring anything?” was met with “Sure. How about dessert?”

The dessert this woman-friend brought eclipsed my meal. It was key lime pie, and it was the best key lime pie I have ever tasted in my life.

With friends and family coming, I thought it was time to practice a new dessert. Nudge Paul. He e-mails his professor friend. The friend’s wife sends her recipe along. We print it out. At the top of the sheet it says add 2 tbls finely chopped almonds to the flour.

I’ve never made a piecrust, so I’m not quite sure what to do. Regular flour, or graham cracker crust? Must be regular. I search through Paul’s mom’s index box of recipes and find a card that reads Oil Pastry. I’ll try that! The only oil in the cabin is olive oil, so I use that.

Here’s what Ruth wrote:

2 c. flour
1 ½ t. salt
½ c. salad oil (try less)
5 tbsp. cold water
Mix water + oil
Add to flour
Roll between wax paper

I set to work to make this pastry. One hour later (or so it seemed) it’s still just dry crumbs, nothing coming together that you could possibly roll flat. Finally, I am so disgusted with my efforts, I crunch the mess into the wax paper and throw the whole damn thing in the garbage.

A while later my daughter, Cora, calls. I say accusatorily, “I’ve seen you make pie crust with oil.”

“Yes, Mom,” she says. You’re making a pie?”

“What kind of oil did you use?”

“Olive oil.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Be patient, Mom. It takes patience to get the hang of it.”


As soon as I get off the phone, I plunge into the garbage, find the large wad of wax paper containing my flour-nut crumbs, and begin again.

Watching a movie later that night, Paul and I dig in. “Not bad,” Paul says. I make a face. “No, really,” he quickly adds. “It’s good. Very good.”