pie (soLs)

Nearly fifteen years I’ve been trying to learn the art of rolling out homemade pie crust. Fifteen years filled with failure. My mom is a pie artist. She whips out crusts. She used to say, “You’ve gotta hold your mouth right.”

Fifteen years and I know there’s more to it than that.
This summer I got serious. Mom came over many times. Made the dough. Showed me the art. Hovered over me. In the end I watched. She rolled. Held her mouth right.
I tried, but didn’t hold my mouth right. The pie dough goes in the trash. I call Mom and she shows me the process again.
“Maybe it skips a generation,” she said. Her words made me set my jaw. Determined. I still didn’t hold my mouth right. I watched her. She rolled. The dough went in the pie pans, not the garbage.
On Sunday I lined up the ingredients. Took a photo and sent a text to Mom. Pray for me, it said.
Before I even put flour in the bowl, her response lit up my screen: It doesn’t take prayer, just skill.
I knew it translated to: Hold your mouth right.
I began. Followed her recipe. Remembered her tricks. Took a deep breath. Rolled.
Must’ve held my mouth right, because the dough ended up in the pie pans instead of the trash can. I’m still smiling with the knowledge that this little art form didn’t skip a generation. I may never be known for pies like my mom, but I know if I ever need a tangible reminder of her, I’ll be able to hold my mouth right and roll out a homemade pie crust.
Looking for a perfect pie crust? Here’s the recipe.
Flaky Pie Crust
Ruth Ayres (Yep, I’m claiming it since I was able to do it all by myself.)

3 c. Flour
1 1/2 c. Crisco (Mom’s Trick: Buy it in the can, not the sticks.)
1/2 tsp. Salt (Mom leaves this out, but if I put it in, Andy tells me I make the very best pies in the world.)

Mix together with a pastry blender until it looks like tiny pebbles. 

Now here’s the tricky part…
Beat 1 egg in a small bowl. Add 5 TBSP. water and 1 tsp. vinegar.

Then pour a little over the flour mixture. Cut it into the mixture with a butter knife. Pour a little more. Cut a little. Pour a little. Cut a little. (Mom’s Trick: Don’t over mix!)

It makes two covered pies. But who wants to roll out a top too? I use it to make three pie shells.

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  1. So, so happy you held your mouth right! It is so tricky. You've given me a challenge; I haven't made a crust from scratch in a long while so I'll try your recipe & see if I still can. I've never done the egg thing so will add it & see. Thanks for the story Ruth-a special one about you and your mom. Mothers and daughters together-nice! Happy Valentine's Day!

  2. What a beautiful post! I loved the way you used fragments and short sentences to give the feeling of stopping and starting– failing and trying again.

    I have never been able to make pie crust very well, therefore I don't bake pies very often. I am going to try your recipe, though– haven't heard of using vinegar…

    Happy Valentine's Day!

  3. This piece shows your determination. I applaud you for your multiple attempts and finally reaching success. Someday I may try your recipe, but for now I will continue to unroll my crust from the plastic bag I take out of the box.

  4. I like how you included the text messages you sent and the response your mom gave! I felt like I was there with you. I'm glad to hear that your pie came out perfectly! Thanks for sharing the recipe. Hopefully I'll be able to make a homemade pie crust someday. 🙂

    –jee young

  5. Determination is a squirrelly thing…sometimes frustration threatens to overtake it. I think this is true in writing as well.

    Be happy that your mom didn't make you feel guilty for buying store bought crust. At one of my more desperate moments, I actually used one. You know, she didn't notice either…until someone spilled the beans on me!

  6. Thanks Jee. I appreciate knowing what details resonate with you. It's fun to select the kinds of details that go into a slice (and even more fun to know I've chosen the ones that work!).

  7. This piece reminded me so much of learning to make potato salad like my mom. Took me years–mostly because she doled out her secrets one at a time!

    I am such a fan of one sentence paragraphs for emphasis–and you do it with such mastery. Thanks for sharing this—and the pie crust recipe. I may have to try it–although I don't know if I can hold my mouth just right!

  8. Thanks Deb. I like those one sentence paragraphs too. It takes time to make them ring true.

    Ahh…potato salad. Andy's mom makes a superb one…I should probably start working on the recipe now. 🙂

  9. Ha ha I have the same problem with my mom. Ever since I can remember she has been known as THE “pie maker” in the family. She used spend entire summer vacations (it seemed) in grandma's kitchen making grandpa pie. So now today so many years later whenever we have a family get together I always ask her to bring…a salad. Just kidding still is pie.

  10. hmmm….how about a slice–of pie! I think you should let the BONS decide if you've mastered it for sure…and it might take more than one taste test to know for sure. 🙂

    I have made pie crusts, and have a couple recipes (used for different things of course), but neither is like this one, so I may have to try it. I rarely make pie though–may have to work on that!

  11. I love the way holding your mouth right is woven into the process every step of the way. You covered learning over time flawlessly with that line as a thread.

    I think I set my jaw too when I read the line about it possibly skipping a generation! Glad your determination paid off. I am sure your mother is just as happy!

  12. Making good pie crust is definitely an art form. Like writing, it can be intimidating, requiring tenacity. I like the way you wove dialogue and texting into this piece.

  13. I just read the new kids' novel PIE. Each chapter starts with a different pie recipe. Found myself wanting to try out these recipes, even though I had never made a pie crust. You have made me think I might give it a try over the long weekend…Thanks!

  14. Congratulations, Ruth!! You always still make the time to bake/cook–kudos to that, too. I use to make my pie crusts. Maybe I should do it again. Thanks for the pie crust inspiration–different. I will expect pie from you now. I love pie!!!!

  15. You know, I love cooking sooo much…I cook/bake daily, and there's very little I won't make from scratch, but pie crusts…ugh! I DESPISE making them! It's probably because I don't really care for pie, though. 🙂