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Mom's Christmas Cherry Pie Recipe

With the possible exception of a killer dumpling, my mother’s recipes typically involved a can and a can opener, which she could twirl through her fingers with the speed and agility of a Ninja or a majorette. So the recipe I’m about to give you is not for gourmets.

No, it’s not the dumpling recipe, as heavenly as that was, the dumplings so light they seemed to defy gravity. No, she took that heavenly recipe with her to the grave to delight the angels. However, to get her cherry pie recipe just right, you must first debone a chicken carcass and take your best shot at chicken and dumplings.

Um, what?

Be patient with me; it will all be clear when you bite into that cherry pie we’re about to make. Remember, to thoroughly enjoy a slice of pie—or any food you love—you must first prepare the palate, and chicken and dumplings is just the thing for my mom’s cherry pie. Wait, you’ll see.

Okay, I’m assuming that you are now in your kitchen, a pot of chicken and dumplings simmering on the stove, with a picked-clean chicken carcass sitting nearby on a countertop, ready to be disposed of. But you can do that later, after you’ve made the pie.

Okay, the first thing you need to do is make some pie dough. My mother didn’t have the convenience of pie crusts you could buy off the shelf, so right about here there would be a bare countertop dusted with flour, with an equal portion on my mother’s body and face, making her look a little bit like a frazzled Lucille Ball.

Okay, put your bottom crust into the pie pan, dump in the cherries—of course from a can!—and then put on the top crust, crimping the edges with a fork and poking several holes in the top crust to help the pie breathe. You can be artistic at this, creating various attractive patterns of pokes, but please, no happy faces!

Now put that pie into the oven at a certain temperature and for a certain time. My mother guessed at all that, so I’ll let you do the same. I highly recommend using a kitchen timer, the kind that dings when time runs out. I’ve found that, even if you get the baking time wrong, that little ding will give you a big boost of confidence, making you feel that whatever might have gone wrong, it certainly was the fault of “that damned oven” and not you.

Okay, take out the pie and let it cool.

Time for dinner! Serve up the chicken and dumplings to your starving family—of course with canned vegetables!—and then proceed to serving the pie, with as much pomp and circumstance and whipped cream as you wish. Then pull up a chair and watch your family dig into the pie.

Pay no attention when they all shout in pain and spit out the chicken bones that somehow got baked into the pie.

That damned oven!