It’s not quite Father’s Day but I’ve got fathers on the brain, especially of course my own father. Not only is Father’s Day coming up in a few weeks, but it’s also his birthday soon. Also, in my newsfeed this morning I read an interesting story about the history of father’s day. Apparently on July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church hosted the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers. During a Sunday sermon, the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah were honored in a one-time commemoration.
A year later Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to create a “Mother’s Day” for fathers, and had success when Washington State held the first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910. In the following years, Presidents like Calvin Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson were both proponents of Father’s Day, but generally American men opposed it because they felt that it wasn’t a “manly” gesture to give fathers presents “likely” bought with their own money, and felt that it was another commercialized holiday scam used to boost product sales. It took President Nixon’s re-election campaign to get an official proclamation signed in 1972 to recognize this day as a federal holiday.
One of the things I associate with my Dad is pie, specifically Cherry Pie and Lemon Meringue Pie. He’s told me the story of how during a cross country trip one year, which involved eating out in restaurants for nearly every meal, he ordered the same thing over and over and over again . . . . hamburger, cherry pie and coke . . . until one day at a restaurant when the waiter turned to my Dad for his order, my grandma said “If I hear hamburger cherry pie coke one more time I’m going to scream!” Or something funny like that. Also my paternal grandma made a killer pucker-your-lips tart lemon meringue pie frequently that he loved.
So today I made a Cherry Pie. Still working up to meringue.
One of the great things about parents, and therefore fathers, is that no matter how hard they are on you while growing up, or even as adults, if they feel someone else has wronged you . . . Watch. Out.
So recently I got laid off. Rather than hearing the news from my direct boss of 5 years (he was in New York), I was set free by the Managing Partner and HR Director. That is technically how the process is supposed to work, but I had worked like a dog for this one person and we’d developed a relationship that was close and almost fatherly, and I thought merited a face to face discussion. After the pity party, then the anger, in in my most rational and calm state I decided it kind of sucked the way it went down for me last week.
Now, my Dad happens to be in the same business as I and my (former) boss are, though he retired several years ago, and when he heard how this all transpired, he reminded me of the farmer and horse story, which he told me he wanted to share with my former employer (no, no, not a good idea!!!):
There once was a farmer who had a very loyal, loving and hardworking horse. After years of back breaking work, the horse went lame and so the farmer took him to the veterinarian. The vet told the farmer, “I’m sorry but your horse is not going to recover. He will need to be put down. Do you want me to put him down?” And the farmer said “No. I must do it myself. Why would I have you put down the horse that belongs to me.” As the story was recounted to me I detected a faltering voice; it was a choked up narrative towards the end.
So, jobs come and go, material possessions come and go, even pie comes and goes. In life, what actually remains? The poignant memories that tell of human relationships, good and bad, live on through others, even after we pass.
Here’s the Cherry Pie Recipe adapted from Warren Brown’s Pie Love:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat, spelt, kamut or farro flour
3 Tbsp superfine granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 sticks unsalted very cold butter (I froze mine)
5 to 6 Tbsp ice water
2 1/4 lbs sour cherries, drained
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup cornstarch
1 recipe Crust, bottom crust blind baked
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Superfine granulated sugar, for sprinkling
To make pie crust:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9- to 10-inch pie pan with butter and lightly sprinkle it with sugar.
Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the work bowl of a food processor and mix for at least 30 seconds.
Stop the processor and add the butter all at once.
Pulse in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs; pulse in the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms into a ball and rides on top of the S blade.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Set aside one third of the dough.
Form the remaining dough into a disk, place a second piece of parchment on top, and roll it into a large round about 12 inches in diameter and ⅛ inch thick.
Gently fit the rolled dough into the pie pan, fold the excess underneath, crump the edge, and chill the crust for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, roll out the reserved dough between two sheets of parchment to a round approximately 10 inches across. Set it aside, keeping it between the parchment sheets to prevent it from drying out.
Dock the bottom crust and cover it with a circle of parchment paper cut to size and a disposable pie pan resting gently above the crust to prevent it from puffing up while toasting. Blind bake for 5-7 minutes.
Set the blind-baked crust aside to cool while you prepare the cherry filling.
To make pie:
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the cherries in a colander to drain for 15 minutes, and discard the liquid.
Pour the cherries into a large, heavy-bottomed pot and stir in the water and sugar.
Stir together the cornstarch and salt, then stir the mixture into the cherries with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon.
Turn on the heat to medium. Cook, stirring slowly but continuously, until the juices bubble slowly and thicken, 5 to 8 minutes. Allow the filling to cool slightly.
Scoop the filling into the prepared piecrust. Cover the pie as desired with a top crust with steam vents, a lattice top, or other decorative preference.
For the top crust, whisk the egg and vanilla together and brush this wash over the pie; lightly sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Bake the pie for about 30 minutes, until the cherries begin to lightly bubble and the crust has a golden color. Allow the pie to cool for 1 hour to let the filling set before slicing.