Every time I travel this way, driving north from Columbus…I feel that I’m entering another country…”
I’m an Ohioan, a buckeye, rooted in Mount Vernon just a few miles north of the geographical center of the state. My father never lived anyplace other than Knox County, nor any town other than Mount Vernon, except for the first four months of his life. He was born seven miles northwest in tiny Fredericktown.
Now we come into Mount Vernon … With its cobbled brick streets, Civil War monument town [round] square, block after block of handsome turn-of-the-century housing… And yet, there is something congenial about the place: stately houses, modest bungalows, backyard gardens, quiet streets…”
That my dad lived such a long life — ninety — is attributable in part to pie. That’s what he would say anyway. In Ohio, pie is a meal, a food group!
The man never met a pie he didn’t like, with the possible exception of coconut crème and butterscotch. Fruit was his filling of choice: apple, cherry, peach, rhubarb, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, elderberry, grape, plum, banana, and even raisin. Now he didn’t bake the pies — women’s work, he said — but he did pick, clean, sort and chop the fruit.
My mother rolled out a pie every few days: flakey, crusty, aromatic, lip-smackingly good. After mom died, dad remarried and Martha rolled out a pie every few days: flakey, crusty, aromatic, lip-smackingly good. I never asked, but I’ll bet in addition to “Love, honor, and obey” there was a clause in their marriage vows that promised, “pies to last you the rest of your days.”
It is difficult to say no to a home baked pie warm from the oven. Dad never even tried to resist as his waistline proved.
When my daughters were small and visited during the summer, their gramps let them have pie and homemade vanilla ice cream for breakfast. “You got your fruit, you got your dairy, perfect breakfast,” he’d say.
I wondered at him letting them eat pie every morning. When I was their ages I had to eat Shredded Wheat, Cheerios or Cornflakes. Sometimes I got a sliced banana.
Last Thanksgiving, our granddaughter Samantha wanted me to show her how to make a pie from scratch. She was a quick learner, and her first pies — apple and pumpkin — were excellent. I’m sorry to say that she’s as messy a baker as I am. Her great-grandmas would be horrified to see the mess she made. But her great-gramps would have loved the results.
Quotes from Alma Mater, A College Homecoming, P.F. Kluge, Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1993.