Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why I Don't Like to Make Pies

Don't get me wrong. I love to eat pies, and I adore the people who make them. It is the obscure and quite impenetrable construction process that I try to avoid. Cooking in a cast iron skillet or a soup pot I get: you taste it as you go along, and you pretty much know how it is going to turn out. An unbaked pie, all pale and cold, gives you precious little clue as to its future success or failure. And the entire project is uncorrectable until it comes out of the oven. Too late then, except for a gigantic ice cream rescue or a shroud of whipped cream.

I also think the requirements are vague and smugly mysterious How could the same substance resemble both tiny peas and coarse meal (Which by the way, is what? Cornmeal before it goes through its last grind at the corn meal factory? Who among us has encountered that?) Peas are quite round and green. Coarse meal is lumpy and not green.

How cold is cold for the shortening? How over is overworked? Does it make sense to make something by hand that your hands should not touch?  

My darling daughter-in-law contends that you just know these things. That is why I let her make the pies, and they are fine ones.

Monday, November 23, 2009

An End

There was a rumble in the air today, and we knew that the harvest beyond our tree line had begun. During these last golden days of low sun and leaf smoke, while we have made hurried efforts to take care of the final outdoor chores, the unharvested corn in Herb's field has seemed indifferent to the end of the season. We even wondered if he meant to leave these spindly, sere stalks standing through the winter  -- in some obscure crop rotation scheme we did not know about.

The harvester arrived, however, and the take-down began, filling the air with corn dust. As night fell, the combine lights came on, and the work continued as, in one powerful motion, the corn was cut down, shucked, and spit into the trucks that waited at the fields' perimeters. How odd to look out our windows and see rows of lights, like landing signals, where -- for every other day of the year --- there is darkness. By tomorrow morning, we will be surrounded by low stubble, and the corn will be on the road to its end as chicken feed and ethanol. The air will be quiet again, and we will see a little farther.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


What in the world is this, and what is it made of? I took the photograph or, at least, had the camera in my hands, and I should know, but I am mystified. Making things has its perilous moments when you do something that is almost good enough, but you haven't the faintest idea how you did it. Worse, you fret that you might never do anything like it again. Edward counsels that making art is getting lost and getting found and getting lost and getting found. He is, of course, unnervingly right.

I do wish I knew, however, what the camera was pointing at as I shifted and bumped the shutter button by mistake. Nothing around me looks just like this, yet for a moment it was real. Like life.