Pie: A Story of Mothers and Daughters


My mother usually viewed the world from a black and white perspective.  She had a lot of guidelines for how to live a productive and “good” life.   Neighbors and friends saw her as a “good” woman who cared for and did “good” in the rural community in which we lived.  Above all she was a good cook!!

I rarely think about her “rules” for life.  Suddenly I realize I actually “follow” a substantial number of these rules and have passed many on to my own daughter:

This is how you make butter with an electric mixer.

This is how you make a cake:

-grease and flour the cake pan(s)

-cut our circles of waxed paper to put on top of the greased and floured surface–you

do not want the cake to stick

-sift the flour

-soften the butter

-mix the ingredients in exactly this order.

This is what you wear.  You want to look presentable!!

-clean underwear in case you are in a car wreck

-matched clothes

-polished shoes

-purse and shoes that match

-no white anything before May 1 or after September 1.

This is how you present yourself to the world:

-well groomed

-clean fingernails

-self assured

-nice, but not too nice

-polite

-brushed teeth

-lotioned body

-clean hair.

This is how you wash your clothes:

-separate whites and colored items–you want the whites to stay white.

This is how you ride your pony:

-keep your heels down

-don’t lean too far back.

This is how you neck rein.

This is how you hold the reins.

This is how you get your pony to trot.

This is how you get your pony to canter.

This is how you get your pony to stop.

This is how you clean the house:

-vacuum first, dust second

-if you don’t do it right the first time, you will have to do it over.

This is how you work:

-hard

-persistent–never ever give up

-smart.

This is how you breathe to sing

This is how you practice well.

My mom could barely sew and only could play the piano by ear–two lifelong regrets.  I had to learn these things no matter what.  I do not like to sew much, but still play the piano and I love, love, love to sing!

She could cook, especially pie.  Her crusts were tasty works of art.  At potlucks people would get her pie first to make sure they got some.  At potlucks now, people get my pie first to make sure they get some.  My daughter does not even eat pie, but people love her pie and get a piece to make sure they get some.

Raisin Walnut Pie

This is not my mother’s recipe.  She mostly made black raspberry and other fruit pies and coconut chiffon pies.  This is the pie I make every time there is a potluck.  If I do not make it, people ask me about it so I gave up and just usually bring this pie.

3 eggs

3/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup raisins, golden or dark

3/4 cup walnuts, broken

1 unbaked pie shell

Stir corn syrup and brown sugar into melted butter.  Beat eggs slightly and stir into the butter/sugar mixture.  Add vanilla.  Mix raisins and walnuts and sprinkle into the pie shell.  Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the walnuts and raisins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until pie crust is golden and mixture is set.  Cool.

If you goof and do not have vanilla, stir in 1 tsp. of cinnamon instead.

Enjoy!!

This is how you…


In preschool I had a few duties I remember, well maybe not remember—this story is part of family lore so old I cannot remember whether I remember only the lore or the occurrence itself.  At four, one chore involved walking from the house, across the backyard, across the drive, past the rose garden, then on the path between the big white barn and the huge vegetable garden to the chicken house behind the barn.  Each evening I took this trip before dark and shut the hen house door so the raccoons, skunks, and possums could not get in and eat the hens.  One night I forgot.  The night was dark, moonless.  Dad ordered me to the hen house.  He handed me a flashlight.  I refused, terrified.  He tried talking; I refused.  He tried force; I refused.  My mom understood my terror and finally intervened.  She told Dad, “You had better never ever do anything like that again!”  He didn’t.

By twelve, the terror had changed to pleasure.  I knew how to walk through the woods in the dark without a flashlight.  I knew how to walk through the woods in the dark silently so I could hear the animal sounds.  I knew how to walk through the woods in the dark happy and alone, free.  I still like to walk in the dark.

At twelve, I knew how to load a 22 rifle, to shoot raccoons and rabbits on the run, to clean the rifle afterwards.

I knew how to practice the piano for two hours straight.

I knew how to sing in front of a crowd of people.

I knew how to sew blouses, skirts, and dresses all by myself even though my mom could only sew on buttons.

I knew how to make fancy bows for the Christmas presents.

I knew how to fry chicken almost as well as my mom:

-this is how to check for pin feathers

-this is how you fill the paper sack with flour and salt

-this is how you fill the skillet with just the right amount of oil

-this is how you take the pieces out of the sack and put them in the hot

oil

-this is when and how you turn the pieces

-this is how you know when they are done

-this is how you drain the pieces on paper towels so it won’t be too

greasy.

I have not made or eaten fried chicken in years.

From six until I earned my Ph.D., this is how you make straight A’s in school:

-get organized

-be determined

-fill your soul with drive.

It helps if you are smart.

This is how you meet your parents’ expectations:

-keep your room neat

-keep your room clean

-keep your room perfect

-complete chores on time

-complete chores perfectly

-complete chores cheerfully

-study hard

-complete all homework

-make perfect grades

-dress nicely

-dress modestly, but not too prim

-dress in clean underwear in case you get in a car wreck.

I still get straight A’s.  I still have an overdose of drive.  I still write, play the piano, cook, ride horses, and sing.

It helps if you are smart.

As a rancher years later, I learned how to work cattle without my father’s help:

-this is how you “cut” or “band” yearling bulls

-this is how you give shots

-this is how you brand

-this is how you drive cattle on horseback down a road full of traffic

-this is how you save a  newborn, freezing calf:

-be brave and get it away from its mother

-carry it into the house or pickup truck

-wipe it down with towels

-blow it dry with your hair dryer.

This is how you train a horse to send to the race track:

-teach it to lead as a baby

-handle it every day if possible

-pick up its feet repeatedly

-rub your hands all over its body, especially on sensitive spots

-brush and comb it

-after it is older, rub a saddle blanket all over it and flap it in the wind

-hang plastic bags on its corral

-jump around a lot and desensitize it

-when it is a long yearling, put a saddle on it

-put a bridle or hackamore on it

-get long lines

-string them through the stirrups and teach it to drive in a round pen

-teach it to stand still

-get a flat saddle

-get on and ride

-do not teach it to neck rein

-ride often but for short periods of time.

Today as a teacher:

-this is how you solve for X and Y

-this is how you solve quadratic equations

-this is how you solve exponent problems

-this is how you solve word problems

-this is how you rationalize radicals

-this is how you determine how many grams are in one mole of a

chemical compound

-this is how you balance chemical equations

-this is how you conjugate common Spanish verbs

-this is how you write a sentence in Spanish

-this is how you translate a Mexican folk tale

-this is the date of the Magna Carta, the….

-this is how you write an essay

-this is how you learn new words from the context

-this is how you read for layers of meaning

-this is how…

It helps if you are smart.