I spent a lot of this past winter doing something pretty much out of character for me. I baked pies. I baked at least thirteen, and probably more between January and May, a quest that began innocently enough when I found a display of fresh Persimmons in the local grocery, and picked some up - because I remember.
I remember walking down a lonely railroad track in southern Illinois with my grandfather. He took us back there to find walnuts, when they were in season, and hickory nuts, and because there was a small forgotten grove, if you knew where to find it, that had persimmon trees in it. I have learned since then that they have worked out how to prevent the inherent bitterness in the fruit, and that - among other things I never knew - you can make a veyr tasty pie out of them. That was how it started. The simple question - can this be made into a pie.
I am going to put the full preface of the book AMERICAN PIES - Baking with Dave the Pie Guy - beneath this. It's not too long, but it explains this book...I hope. The print version will be ready before the holidays. The eBook is available now, in all formats and at most outlets.
In a world too full of things that do not bring happiness...I offer pie.
I suppose that a book like this requires something of an explanation. I mean, a book from me is no stretch. I've written plenty of them. It's just that none of them were cookbooks. None of them were even non-fiction, though I've written plenty of that. I cut my teeth on fantasy, horror, science fiction, and thrillers. So why a book about pie?
The simple fact is, I saw a need for a book that didn't exist, and I decided I would write it. Pie is important to me, and not just because I like to eat it. It's part of my past, my history, my family, and in some ways it's important to our heritage, and our country. At least, it used to be important. Now what serves as pie in most cases is a 9" cardboard box with something inside that is more like a fat toaster pastry than a pie, pre-cooked and heated up to be half-eaten and catch flies in the kitchen after holiday meals. These, I am happy to say, are not the pies of my childhood, or my memory. I needed to bring it back full circle. I needed to find the pies that I remembered, to learn how to make them and bake them and serve them up to my family. In a world where things grow more generic and cookie-cutter by the day, I needed to make a stand.
When Thanksgiving rolls around this year, we'll be baking a fresh pumpkin pie. And an apple. And a cherry. I hope my family loves them like I did when I was a boy. Most of them aren't as much into pie as I am. They like cake, and frozen chocolate pies, and a million sweet and tasty things, but pie – that's mostly me. My daughter Stephanie joins me, and if the pie is right (sometimes topped with ice cream) everyone joins in. The Honey-Crisp Apple Pie I made a few weeks ago disappeared like magic. The Strawberry Pie was declared one of the best things ever. It's a start.
I will win my youngest daughter Katie over when I make the pumpkin pie. That is her personal favorite, and I'm pretty comfortable in my new-found baking skills. I bet I can make one fatter and better than anything she's ever seen. I know I'll do my best. I also know that the cardboard boxed competition will make it easy for me.
When I was young, my mom and my grandmother always wanted to know what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday. Early on, I went with a wonderful strawberry cake my grandma made with Jell-o inside it…but later, things changed. I started asking for blueberry pie instead of cake. I got the meal of my choice, and it was pork chops, mashed potatoes, and blueberry pie. I suppose that I was a weird kid, which led to the weird adult I've become, but I don't care. I just like pie.
I blame most of this on grandmothers. My other grandmother, on my father's side, Grace Wilson, baked an apple pie that was to die for. She sugar-coated the crust…it was one of the happiest foods of my childhood. I have yet to recreate that crust, though I am on the trail of it and have come close a couple of times now. Makes me wonder if her mother taught her how to do it, or if it was just the product of years and practice.
The point is, when all is said and done, that I don't want my kids, whether they appreciate my efforts or not, to grow up in a world where pie means snack cakes or a thin, pasty fruit-thing in a cardboard box that you bake twice a year. Maybe it won't be my family, or my kids, who pick up on what I'm saying and pass it on. That's why I'm writing a book, after all. To pass it on, and share it. Maybe – since you are reading this – it will be you.
I'm going to start with a little history of pies. No reason, except that when I set out to write this, I started searching, and reading, and now I know more about pies than I need to. I don't think I should be the only one. It's out there to be found, searched, and researched, but since you already plunked down your money for this book, you might as well trust me to tell it. Believe me – pie has been around a lot longer than you might think. The good news? Sweet, sugary fruit pie is pretty much an American invention. The saying is not far off the mark: As American as apple pie.