Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Every Detail: Christmas Pie

Don't worry about anything;instead, pray about everything. Tell God every detail, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand." Philippians 4:6-7

This Christmas has been a difficult one as my sweet daddy is spending his last days with those who love him here on this earth. Recently, missing him, I went into his home office and looked around for pieces of my dad that I could cling to. On his desk were several things in his handwriting. One was the above verse. It brings me comfort and guidance for these days. My dad lived this in his life and is living it as he leaves us.

For the past 30 or so years my mom has made Christmas Pie for our family feast on the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. My dad always loved it and would look forward to that first bite. "Mmmm, Mmmmm, how sweet it is," he'd often say. "Mary, you've done it again." One year, rather than a cake on his May birthday, he asked for Christmas pie.

This year, with my mother spending her time by his bedside and with my hope to preserve some of the familiar traditions of our family, I made the Christmas pie. It wasn't the same, partly because my taste buds are dulled by sadness and grief but also because I forgot to ask my mom about every detail. It was still tasty and my family was kind enough to be enthusiastic about it. Mom shared her tips and next year's pie should be better and memories of my dad will hopefully sweeten the occasion.

These days by his bedside and in everything I am doing, I am recalling details of life with my dad. A big presence, my dad. Laughing, tearful, passionate, curious, intense, relaxed. All in the same day sometimes. Dad is dedicated to his faith, family and friends and all the small details in his life add up to one big picture of love. Dad knew the importance of showing up and being present. He was good at the details: handwritten notes to encourage us, times by our bedsides, prayers offered on behalf of many, trees watered and tended, books read and shared. Such seemingly small details make up his large life. I am truly blessed to be his daughter. My heart overflows with gratefulness for the holy details of an everyday life offered up by my amazing dad.

Christmas Pie
Make pastry shell for a 9 inch pie. Bake as directed.

For the filling:
Soften 1 T gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water.
Mix together in saucepan:
1/2 cup sugar
4 T flour
1/2 tsp salt
Gradually stir in 1 1/2 cups milk.

Cook over low heat, stirring until it boils. Boil one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in softened gelatin. Cool. When partially set, beat with rotary beater until smooth. Blend in 3/4 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp almond extract.

Gently fold in 1/2 cup whipping cream that has been whipped until stiff.

Make a meringue by add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar to 3 egg whites. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar until it peaks.
Stir in 1 cup moist shredded coconut.
Pour into cooled baked pie shell. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup coconut. Chill until firm.

This recipe adapted from the Betty Crocker cookbook.

"How sweet it is!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cinnamon Flop and Going Back

"We have to allow ourselves to be loved by the people who really love us, the people who really matter... "

C. Joybell C.

In the midst of a long, cold and weary winter earlier this year, I thought ahead to my 50th birthday which would fall in July. "What do I want to do" I asked myself, "that I haven't done?" It came to me that what I yearned for wasn't something new, but rather something old. I wanted to reconnect with some important people from my past. People who have loved me and whom I have loved. Friends and family that I have lost touch with but whose voices and faces still linger in my mind when something comes into the landscape that reminds me of them.

I decided to start to visit some of these important folks and get reacquainted. I wanted to celebrate what I held dear about them and to feel the love once again. So, I started with my college friend Rhoda and my closest relatives on my dad's side, the Hess family. It was as warm, cozy and comfortable as being wrappped in an old quilt being with them again. We laughed, cried and revisited old memories. We made some new ones as well. I came and left feeling blissfully blessed.

My Aunt Marion kindly followed this blog and made a list of her own favorite recipes from the Mennonite Community Cookbook. This is one she sent me. I tried it and it is delicious, sweet, and tasting of love like the many treats I ate so many years ago in her familiar kitchen in Lancaster County, PA. The name of this entry? Peculiar, I guess. I'd say it comes from the fact that it kind of rises while it bakes, then flops down again. It develops cinnamony valleys and subtle sugary peaks as it ascends and descends.

The people who love us are a great gift. They smile when they see us, they laugh at our stories, they cry over our sorrows. They share themselves with us. They lovingly remind us of unfortunate haircuts, bad boyfriends and childhood imaginary friends. As they age, the become all the more dear to us and we smile as we get to hold them close once again. It's a wonderful gift, being able to go back.

Here is the recipe as I made it this afternoon.

2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients together. Using two knives cut into shortening until the mixture is in fine crumbs.
Beat egg and add milk.
Add milk and egg gradually to dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed.
Put mixture into a greased 9 or 10 inch pie late.
Mix 1/3 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the batter.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (1950).
Cinnamon flop. Sweet, cinnamon topped, densely delicious.

Urging you to reconnect with the love in your past,