Dear Davida–

It’s been a long time, about 30 years. finishedpieIn fact, you may not remember me, but you will live in my memory for a very long time. Way back then, you did me the honor of teaching me how to bake an apple pie. You didn’t just tell me how; you didn’t just show me how; you stood there and instructed me, making me get my hands and mind working on mixing everything up and learning the secret of your crust. It is that crust that has garnered attention over the years and which, with the great filling, has given me bragging rights to making The World’s Best Apple Pie.

The first time I tried it on my own it worked, but barely. I forgot to use wax paper to roll out the crust, so my wine-bottle rolling pin (my college kitchen wasn’t very well equipped, so I improvised) stuck to the crust. I haven’t made that mistake since! But, it was Thanksgiving and my family was both appreciative and forgiving.

Since then, I’m made many, many pies following your instructions. One year I had a boss at work who thought he made the world’s best apple pie; I begged to differ and we had a showdown. He didn’t have the courage to bring his pie in on a day I was there, but I know I won that one, hands down. But, most of the time, my pies are for Thanksgiving and various Christmas-season potlucks. Sometimes that is a caroling party potluck, sometimes that is a kayaking group holiday party or, this year, it will be the Scottish Country Dance holiday potluck. They all deserve to try your great pie and they always love it.

recipeOf course, I’ve altered the recipe slightly over the years. I always substitute one cup whole wheat flour. Occasionally, I throw in a handful of raisins. I’ve reduced the sugar level a tad, since I like the tartness of the apples to come through. I ALWAYS use Granny Smith apples. They’re the best. I usually throw in an extra dash of cinnamon and a little ground clove, too. And, of course, I’ve upgraded my equipment. I have a real rolling pin now. My big score a few years back was a slick little device that cores, slices and peels apples all at once. That sure saves some time. But, at heart, it’s still your recipe and your method and your crust secret that makes the pie. In fact, you can see that I still work from your original handwritten recipe, although it looks like parchment now from all the apple juice stains.

Given the ecological purpose of this blog, another change should be mentioned. I now don’t waste a bit of the excess crust I cut off from the pie; it gets baked with sugar and cinnamon to make little crispy treats. The apple peels and cores no longer get thrown out; they get tossed in my worm bin. Of course, you would understand all this. You were thinking ecologically at the time, writing the original recipe on the back of a scrap of paper from where you worked at the time, the Sacramento Children’s Home/Cowell Children’s Center.

It’s Thanksgiving again, tomorrow, and I’m reminded once again of how grateful I am for this lesson in pie making you gave me. So, it seems apropos to thank you now. (In fact, as I write, tomorrow’s pie is baking in the oven.) Yours was a small gift, but a good one, producing results which I’ve been able to share with many people over the years. Every time I bake a pie, I wonder where you are, where you’ve taken your life and want to thank you. But we didn’t keep in touch, so I’ve never been able to thank you. Now, this blog seems like the best way to say thanks, so here it is: Thanks, best wishes wherever you are, Davida, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.