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Seasonings greetings from a pie-baking fool


The homemade pie-baking activity began early. Considering it never gets off the ground some years, my family is quite thrilled with the pies that have been produced thus far. And the food season has only just begun.

On a typically hectic year, if I crank out a pie at all, it happens late one night before a covered dish event that I’d forgotten about.

But this year, my oldest spent a week during October barely able to play online games with his brothers for more than a couple of hours at a stretch. I learned some things during his ailment other than how many hours a sick 20-year-old can spend online.

First, there are no congestion-only over-the-counter remedies available. If you are in need of mucus relief, you must also treat fever, body aches, sore throat or nausea. Or, you can go the natural route, which includes honey and lemon—two ingredients at which a 20-year-old will snub a mucus-filled nose.

Second, I learned that a slice of homemade pumpkin pie has as much, if not more, healing power as any over-the-counter remedy. Motivated by my son’s weak request for pumpkin pie, I pulled out all my baking gear at 9 p.m. While Hubby was trying to wind down after a long day, I was prancing around the kitchen melting butter and whipping pumpkin.

By 10:30, a steaming pie sat cooling on a rack filling our house with the amazing aroma of all things autumn. By 11, my son was done waiting for it to cool. The scent alone motivated him to rise from his germy camp for a slice. Within hours, he was fully able to resume all social activities.

His miraculous recovery had me wondering which ingredient provided the magic relief he needed. Was it the ginger? The nutmeg? The sugar? The buttery, flaky crust? I was even feeling better the next day.

Upon seeing my pumpkin pie on Facebook — one doesn’t create confection perfection without posting a staged image — a friend asked for some help with a couple of apple pies. He was headed to a weekend wedding event, for which he was asked to bring pie.

For pumpkin pie, I still use a recipe. For apple pie, I can throw one together in my sleep. And being able to do so proved helpful. The apple pies needed to be baked on a Thursday evening after a long day at work near the end of a challenging work week. I was dead on my feet.

Once I got into a baking mode, my mood completely changed. A second wind of sorts blew into my kitchen. Measuring flour, rolling out pastry dough and mixing apples, sugar and seasonings provided an unadulterated escape from the rigors of the rat race.

And the next day, I wasn’t overly tired from having stayed up late to make pies. Rather, I awoke refreshed and ready to take on the day. The experience left me motivated to fit pie-baking into my schedule as needed. Therefore, a fourth apple pie, one for the house, was baked a few days later.

My family has been completely taken aback by this year’s early-and-often baking spree. They are greatly appreciative of the pies, but somewhat hesitant to react. They are more like a three-year-old on Christmas morning—shocked, excited, surprised and worried that it all might disappear as quickly as it appeared.

Meanwhile, I’ve stocked up on pie-making supplies. Work has been super stressful of late, so it’s nice to know I have a pantry full of emergency escape supplies at the ready. When the load becomes too much, I can always break out the flour, butter, sugar and spices and whip up dessert.

I’ve also volunteered to make pies for an upcoming fundraiser in town. The event is planned for mid-December. I realize just days before Christmas could be one of the craziest times to volunteer for anything, let alone making homemade pies. However, after this year’s experiences, the timing seems perfect. I will need to retreat into my kitchen and bake to escape the holiday hectivity.

I’m also thinking of trying my hand at cheesecake. My grand aunt always baked cheesecake for Thanksgiving. She was also a career woman. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to try cheesecake, as it seems awfully difficult. It was never something I wanted to attempt after a full week of work, kids’ activities and routine family stuff.

But now I realize the challenging cheesecake could have been her escape. Maybe that was her secret to barreling through the holidays. Now that I think about it, the cheesecake was what kept her healthy and mentally stable during the busiest, most demanding time of year.

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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of “Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville.” She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is mickibare@inspiredscribe.com