A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to make a really good pie. I asked around—bakers, caterers, cooking store owners etc. and the book The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum came up consistently. One person mentioned How to Make An Apple Pie and See The World by Marjorie Priceman. I purchased both—one for the how-to and one for inspiration.
The Pie and Pastry Bible is enormous and beyond detailed (like reading an organic chemistry book in some places). It has been extremely helpful. Under its tutelage, I’m proud to say I can turn out a decent pie with a flaky, toothsome crust, and filling that holds together (mostly) and delights the senses in its sweetness and texture.
How to Make and Apple Pie and See The World is something else entirely. Technically, it is also a how-to, I suppose, but a person could get lost in the adventure of it.
Making an apple pie is really very easy.
First, get all the ingredients at the market.
Mix them well, bake, and serve.
Let me tell you, Rose Levy Beranbaum would scream and pull her hair out by the roots reading these instructions; but with a simple page turn, Marjorie Priceman acknowledges the difficulties that can arise.
Unless, of course, the market is closed.
What is to be done then? Well, you go home pack a suitcase. With walking shoes and your shopping list, catch a steamship bound for Europe and use the six days on board to brush up on your Italian. Why? Well, you’ll need it when you arrive in Italy during the harvest (timing is important, Priceman acknowledges) to gather yourself some superb semolina wheat.
You’ll head to France for the chicken (the eggs! You need eggs!) and then Sri Lanka for the kurundu tree (cinnamon!). Upon hitching a ride to England you’ll “make the acquaintance of a cow”—one with good manners and a charming accent. You’ll take her with you because only the freshest milk will do.
On the way to Jamaica (for sugar!) you’ll nab a jar of salty sea water (simply evaporate and you have the salt!) and then fly home. Ingredients should remain fresh, after all. Both Beranbaum and Priceman agree that fresh ingredients are of the utmost importance. You’ll parachute into Vermont for the apples—you can’t forget the apples when you’re making apple pie.
Once home, there’s simply milling and grinding and evaporating and persuading (the chicken to lay an egg) and milking and churning and slicing and mixing to do!
While you wait for the pie to bake, you simply ask a friend over to share!
I love this book and the kids I’ve read it to love it, too. We spin the globe and find all the countries of origin for the pantry staples. We talk about where our food comes from, and if it is possible to make some of our favorite foods with all local ingredients. We talk about how much work it is to grow and prepare food and how many people we depend on to do that. We enjoy the pictures—the delightful heroine who tirelessly globe-trots so she can make a pie to share with friends.
A quick internet search yields lesson plans and homeschooling ideas for this book—few mention actually baking a pie, which makes me sad. Is there anything more homey than a made-from-scratch pie? I think not.
Got some backyard raspberries? A u-pick strawberry farm? Consider a bake-n-read this summer with some kids. It’ll be messy, but fun!