I'm going to start off with a confession: I have absolutely no talent as a baker or cook of any kind. At best I can boil water and at worst... well. Let's just say I have a bad habit of leaving out key ingredients and forgetting that I left food in the oven until the smoke alarm goes off. My completely inedible, rock-hard Rice Krispie treats are still something of a legend among my family.
One of my New Year's resolutions, however, is to get more comfortable in the kitchen. So this week I decided to try something that terrifies me (and my entire family) - baking my very first pie. When I found out that February is Great American Pie Month, it felt like fate. Perfect, I thought. Maybe this could actually work. I got my measuring spoons ready, primed the smoke detector, and pulled up the Johnson County Library website to find the perfect cookbook to guide me through this ordeal. As my personal hero, the great Hermione Granger believes: "When in doubt, go to the library."
It's easy to start feeling that doubt when you begin researching pie and see the long list of results. I started checking out books right and left, and soon compiled a list of my favorites. I loved the personal stories in Lisa Ludwinski's Sister Pie. And Kate McDermott's Art of the Pie has some excellent tips for pie crusts and fillings (running your hands under cold water before you handle the dough = genius). The book that really spoke to me though, the one I ended up using and renewing more than once, was Allison Kave's First Prize Pies. The recipes! Root Beer Float Pie, Chocolate Lavender Pie, Eggnog Cream Pie! If you're getting hungry, know that you're not alone. Kave's instructions were easy to follow, and it was with only minimal sweat and tears that I finally slid my Mint Julep Pie with the Classic Pie Crust into the oven.
But a strong love of pie doesn't begin and end with just cookbooks! While my pie baked, I began reading Beth Howard's Making Piece, a moving memoir about the power of pie and how sharing it with others helped her move on from tragedy. Once my pie was chilling in the fridge, I switched to a couple of upbeat stories from American Pie: Slices of Life about Le Draoulec's travels throughout the U.S. and all the homemade pies he tried (psst - this one also has some amazing recipes!). Pie, it turns out, is not just food but a way for people to connect with each other. Finding out the history behind this great American staple has definitely made figuring out my own way around the kitchen much more enjoyable.
But wait, you say, what about the pie you baked? How did it all turn out? I'm proud to say that, despite some minor spills in the oven, a little bit of smoke, and whipping cream that wouldn't quite whip, the pie was not inedible. It was actually kind of good. I may not be a master chef, but I definitely won't run away from future kitchen adventures - as long as my smoke detector always has fresh batteries. Here's hoping your own kitchen adventures are just as fun this month. Happy baking, everyone!