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John Nippolt
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    Soon the aroma of holiday cooking will be wafting out from kitchens everywhere, and if you are anything like me, those distinct smells will conjure up happy memories for you from the past. Early on, I realized that in order for me to continue the ritual of that kind of holiday magic, I would have to learn how to create the wonderful smells myself. I remember making the decision to learn how to cook my favorite desserts, the ones that usually appeared during this time of the year: Apple, cherry, and pumpkin pies.
     I had just returned from my three year enlistment in the army, my longest stay away from home, which reinforced my goal to learn how to bake those pies exactly the way my mom did. My initial reason to do this was a selfish one, because I knew the time would come when she would no longer be around and I would be forced to take matters into my own hands. I could not have done it without her.
     I can recall those bright and fascinating moments she shared with me in our kitchen. She had a special way of passing on her secrets to me, being sure to remind me of how certain things must be done (you do not mix dough, you handle dough). I knew something was important when she looked over at me and smiled, “I never tell this to anyone, not even your sister.”
     I’m thinking about her right now and it makes me glad she taught me how to do it right.
     I look over my list of ingredients, making sure that I have everything on hand as I prepare to bake the pies. I’m going to tell you this straight up, and right from the start. I’m not just going to bake some pies; I’m going to bake some really good pies. Believe me when I tell you I have looked into the delighted eyes of those few who have sampled my pies; they are convinced my recipes have been handed down from “The Source”.
     I can’t explain why the notion of me making pies might be unusual, but for some reason or other, there have been a number of people who seemed to have raised their eyebrows at the thought.

     For instance: I had baked an apple pie for a couple who were friends of my wife. The man was a former naval architect, a retired admiral, and a southern gentleman. He was returning our pie plate and as he handed it over to me he told me, “John, I am from Georgia and I consider myself a connoisseur of apple pies. My congratulations, yours was suhpuhb!”
     I have learned to laugh at how often my pie making prowess has been suspect. The rule of thumb here is that I know what the results will be, those who question will know soon enough.
     It was our first Thanksgiving meal together that I announced I would bake pies. My wife was nonplussed; she had no idea that I might be able to create a dessert from scratch, let alone, homemade pies. It didn’t fit her image of me.
     Did I mention that she was once the food editor for the Honolulu Star Bulletin, one of our two local newspapers here in the islands? It made me feel pretty good to witness her love at first bite, and then watch her finish off the whole piece, scraping up the crumbs while remarking, “I never eat the crust.” That told me something.
     Now, she doesn’t doubt my abilities (meager as they are) around the oven and she was happy with the idea when I suggested baking some pies for her book club’s annual Christmas party where everyone brings gourmet delights. It was the first time I took my pies to the party, and a short time after the desserts were put on the table, out of the blue, a man I didn’t know came up to me while eating a slice of one of my pies. He recommended I try a “piece of one of those, (pointing out my near empty pie pans) before they were gone.”
     It was no surprise to us when after they found out who made what, my wife’s friends came up to compliment me on a job well done. My pies were being compared to Cheesecake Brian’s dishes. (The moniker given to the husband of one of the other book club members for his exceptional cheesecakes). It was even suggested that we start a bakery. Yikes!

     I was considering baking a couple of pies for this year’s upcoming party on Friday but it looks like I really don’t have the time to get the job done. Unfortunately our friends will not get to eat my pies for dessert this year because I have to hold off until Christmas vacation to do my baking. Fortunately for us, my wife and I will get the smells and eat them too! Thanks, mom.