written by John:
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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
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.