the wandering homebody

04/05/2011, 1:09 pm
Filed under: everyday life, food

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the kind of  working life I would want to create for myself if practical and financial concerns weren’t present and failure wasn’t an option. I realize how silly that sentence is; obviously if all those obstacles were removed, it would be easy to do anything, anything at all — become a rock star, the next Oprah, a travel writer, a food critic for The New York Times. The thing is, my dreams are far less grand than those. I don’t really like being looked at, so that rules out any line of work that involves being in the public eye. I love both travelling and eating, but I think being forced to do either of them for a living would grow old fast. I don’t have any political aspirations, or any sort of desire to be involved with big businesses. I would never want the responsibility of being a doctor or a nurse. I am not competitive at all (except when playing Settlers of Catan or poker) and to be honest, I am not very ambitious. I used to want to be a librarian, and some days I still do. Mostly, though — and I know this is horribly idealistic and probably laughable because I’m only 26 and don’t know anything at all yet — I want to love what I do, and what I love is creating things for people that make them happy.

In my most fantastical daydreams, I imagine a life where I can split my time between making quilts and baking pies. I know this is terribly retro and 19th-century housewifey of me, but it’s the truth. I am not especially good at either of these things —  not yet, at least — but there it is. That is what I love.

I’ll expound on my quilting ideas another day (what’s that? you’re waiting with baited breath?) but today I want to tell you about my pie café, the one I daydream about when the idea of transcribing yet another poorly-recorded medical report makes me sigh and want to go back to bed. Its name is Lattice. Ideally, it would be close to but not quite right downtown, in a cozy little neighbourhood with enough foot traffic to sustain it. It doesn’t need to be big, just large enough for a few small wooden tables and maybe an overstuffed armchair or two. Oh, and a well-loved, worn-out couch. One wall would be entirely covered by a bookshelf, and people would be allowed and encouraged to trade their old books in for ones they hadn’t yet read. There would be kids books, classic novels, trashy romances, biographies, cookbooks. There would be a basket full of tabloid magazines, with a sign proclaiming “Guilt-Free Reading”. There would be another basket full of quilts that I had made from my grandmother’s saris. There would be a shelf  full of teapots and mugs, and whenever you ordered a drink, I would instruct you to choose the one you wanted to drink out of most. Maybe there would be a fireplace, so on a dreary, rainy day you could come in and eat pie and listen to the crackling of the embers. If you wanted a hot water bottle, I would fill one up for you and place it in a soft, knitted cover.

And the menu: pie. Only pie. A couple of savoury ones, but mostly sweet; the kind of thing that seems like too much effort to make for just yourself and maybe you feel guilty about all the calories and anyway, it always tastes better when someone else makes it for you. There would be mostly classic flavours — apple, strawberry-rhubarb, blackberry, peach, chocolate cream, bourbon pecan. The fruit would be frozen, not canned; picked in the height of summer and carefully stored away for the long winter months. There wouldn’t be all of these selections every day, but sometimes it’s better to have limited options. The crusts would be made of all butter, because shortening is nasty. On the side you would be able to order ice cream (only plain vanilla), lightly sweetened whipped cream, or cheddar cheese (for the apple pie, although if you ordered alongside one of the other ones I totally would not judge you). Regarding beverages, there would be hot, strong coffee, a small selection of teas, hot chocolate made only from Lindt chocolate and whole milk, and, on the weekends, freshly made masala chai. Mark insists that it would be crazy to not have a proper espresso bar, but I don’t know. Those things are a dime a dozen. I would hire someone to run things in the front while I baked in the back, and I would come out often and chat with the customers. Maybe we would have a kid lucky enough to grow up with a pie shop as his or her second home. I can see it all so clearly, but for now, in the meantime, I’ll just have to make do by dreaming about it and making apple pies.

This one may not be especially beautiful, but it tasted good. The recipe is a little unusual in that you simply cut up the apples and place them in the pie shell, then work the lattice crust over it, and then pour a caramel sauce — which will smell like pure buttery bliss and be very difficult to resist eating straight from the saucepan — over the apples and crust. I was a little worried about the apples getting evenly coated, but it all seemed to even out. The crust was spectacular, if I do say so myself. I had totally convinced myself that I’d overworked it and almost threw it out, but it was perfect. Buttery and tender, and the flakes! Oh, the flakes. We brought this over to my mother-in-law’s on Sunday, and ate the perfect comfort food dinner — meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots. When I brought this out for dessert, she just looked so happy, which is exactly why I dream of Lattice, I think. Pie just makes people feel good. What better way to spend your days?

Here is the recipe for the pie. As you can see, it has an off-the-chart rating, and is very deserving of all of its praise. Make it and feed someone you love, even — especially! — if it’s just for you.


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