What is it like to have a mother who is a fabulous cook and a horrible housekeeper?
My mother’s apple pie was famous around our Michigan neighborhood–people begged for her flaky piecrust recipe, which had a secret to its airiness that passed on only to my sister and me. Her roast beef had the fluffiest, puffiest Yorkshire pudding, and her meringues were covered with decadent rum sauce. At Christmas time, she made nine different kinds of German cookies, just as her best friend from Germany had done. One of them–Lebkuchen–took two days to make. Her dinner parties were fantastic.
(My mother, my sister, and me)
But then someone had to deal with her kitchen. Mom used every pot and pan in the house when she cooked, and the cleanup was made even harder by the fact that I discovered the word for her housekeeping “skills” from the popular television show “Hoarders.” She never threw anything out, including food that “might be good for leftovers sometime.” Her kitchen counters were filled with old mayonnaise jars with dabs of unidentifiable food in them, plates of gray meat, platters of month-old cookies, fruit that should have gone to the compost (something we didn’t have in those days). If you offered to clean up her kitchen, she didn’t want the help because she was afraid you’d throw something out.
Her refrigerator was worse. I didn’t know, until I went away to college, that cottage cheese wasn’t supposed to be green or that bananas weren’t always black. To this day, I cannot eat bananas.
One Thanksgiving, after an incredibly delicious holiday dinner, my fiancé and I sneaked into the kitchen late and cleaned up not only the dishes from that meal, but mystifying things, like baskets of aged rolls that could have served as hockey pucks. Our dinner rolls that day had been Mom’s light-as-air homemade biscuits, but these were relics of meals long past.
When Mom came downstairs and saw her pristine kitchen, she screamed, “Where is my marmalade? Where is the spaghetti sauce I was going to use next week?” On and on until we had to dig out her bottles and jars from the garbage can and try to make the kitchen look as messy as it had just after dinner. She never forgave my fiancé.
We try not turn into our mothers as we age, and my kitchen counters are the exact opposite of hers, clean as a whistle. I do miss her apple pie, though.
Julie Hatfield is a former staff writer at The Boston Globe and the co-author of Thirty Years On Two Wheels: A Biking Odyssey.
Mom's Apple Pie
6 - 8 apples, sliced
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 T. lemon juice plus few gratings lemon rind
2 c. sifted pastry flour plus additional for rolling out
1 t. salt
2/3 c. cold vegetable shortening (2 T. reserved)
6 T. cold water plus additional for sealing
1 T. butter, cut in small pieces
1 - 2 T. milk
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Toss apples with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice and rind. Set aside.
Mix flour and salt.
Cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives.
Add water and quickly mix in.
Form dough into a ball, wrap in wax paper, and chill until cold enough to roll out.
Divide in half and roll each piece out on a lightly floured surface to approximately 11-inch rounds.
(The secret of Mom’s fantastic crust is this: Spread the reserved 2 T. shortening over the rolled-out dough, gather into a ball again, and roll out a second time before fitting into the pan.)
Place one round in 9-inch glass or metal pie pan.
Fill shell with apple mixture.
Dot with butter and cover with top crust.
Pat water along edge to seal the two crusts.
Using a small spoon, press the crusts together to form a scalloped edge.
Brush with milk and make several cuts in top crust.
Bake on bottom shelf of oven for 10 minutes.
Then move to middle shelf and reduce heat to 350 F.
Continue baking about 45 minutes until browned.