I grew up thinking it was normal for my father to do all the cooking and baking. My mom worked late as a typist for the Los Angeles Times starting in 1966 (one of the few African-Americans hired for her fast typing skills during that culturally turbulent era). She was basically the breadwinner as my dad was a struggling playwright at the time. She would call before her shift ended to put in her requests for dinner and return after work to a home-cooked meal with her three daughters.
Born in Washington, D.C., Mom grew up visiting her relatives in Virginia, which was a Greyhound bus ride away, and learning to cook what she called a “country breakfast” (homemade biscuits, fried apples, and ham, not bacon) by watching her aunts. But she just didn’t have the patience for cooking; it was easier for her to set the table and help with the cleanup. At our dinner table, she always led the conversations about the latest gossip and what transpired at work. After hearing stories about her challenges, what I came to admire most about her is her resilience and strength.
One of her greatest pleasures in life was, and still is, reading, but she never really read to me, opting to take me to horror movies instead. In fact, the first time I went to the movies when I was about five or six was a double feature with her: Tales from the Crypt and the original Night of the Living Dead. She still cringes when I bring up that memory. I became a fan of the horror genre because of her. But she also turned me on to Motown, Fleetwood Mac, and anything disco.
My own love for cooking started when I was seven years old and Mom bought me an Easy Bake oven, reading the directions for filling those little cake pans with a batch of batter under a heated bulb. As I got older, I realized that it was my dad’s passion for cooking that influenced me to start my own restaurant. After my parents divorced, they still had a nice relationship. When I visited my dad, he always had something in the oven. When I visited my mom, I intended to cook her dinner, but she'd usually prepared a meal. Apparently she always knew how to cook, but why should she if there was someone in the house more passionate about it?
After more than 36 years, Mom retired from the L.A. Times, but first managed to get all three of her daughters jobs there.. Her boss knew she was a great worker and would have instilled the same work ethic into her children.
Mom often said, “I’ll bake dessert on the weekend.” Sometimes she followed through; often she’d just wait long enough for my dad to do it. But she is known for her apple pie, which I learned by watching her. She always fussed that it didn’t turn out right and was too much of a hassle, but would give in on holidays when we begged her to make one. She’d roll out her pie dough, sometimes piecing it together in the pan, using expletives under her breath. If it came out looking lopsided, she would laugh and say, “Honey, it’s the taste that counts.” I think that’s how I look at life in general. Make the attempt. Don’t be superficial. Appreciate and be grateful for the outcome.
Silentia Slaboch was raised in California and is currently a resident there. When not baking apple pies, grilling, or preparing Czech dishes for her husband, she produces and hosts video content for Pasadena's local cable channel. She can be found at Vimeo.
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour (Mom uses Pillsbury)
1 t. salt
1 c. chilled Crisco
6 - 10 T. ice cold water
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
4 c. Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced
3 c. Jonathan or other red apples, peeled and sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. butter, cut into small cubes
1 T. water
1 t. sugar
Blend flour and salt.
Cut shortening in with a pastry blender or fork until coarse crumbs form.
Stir in enough water so that dough just holds together.
Divide dough in half, and shape into 1/2-inch thick disks.
Wrap divided dough in plastic and refrigerate until ready to roll out, at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Make filling: In large mixing bowl, combine sugars, flour, and spices.
Toss in apples and lemon juice, stirring together.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of dough into an 11-inch circle, and place in bottom of a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.
Spoon apple mixture on top.
Dot with butter.
Roll out second dough round, and place on top of apples.
Pinch the top and bottom crusts together, sealing the edges all around, and flute with fingers or a fork.
Cut a few slits in the top crust for escape of steam.
Mix egg and water together, and brush on top crust.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Place aluminum foil loosely around edges to prevent over-browning.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Remove foil and bake an additional 10 - 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling in center is bubbly.
Cool to room temperature before cutting.