One of my very favorite things growing up was to come home and find my mother not there. She was very bossy and we fought a lot but that wasn’t the reason why; I loved to make baked goods while she wasn’t around to tell me I was doing things wrong. She also would make me share anything I baked and that was entirely distressing to a sugar-crazed glutton like me.
The year I turned 11 I learned how to make pie crust. I suppose my mother taught me or maybe I just went through her recipe files and taught myself. Either way I figured it out. At first I stuck to making rolled out dough sprinkled with cinnamon. It’s still one of my favorite treats to this day. But eventually I decided to incorporate one of my other favorite ingredients: strawberry jam. It wasn’t homemade. I don’t think I knew that homemade jam even existed. I used plain-old Smuckers to make tarts. I called them tarts as they looked like pop-tarts. This is how they looked in my nursery rhyme book too (“The Knave of Hearts, he stole some tarts”). Nowadays, though, tarts are just teensy pies. The things I traditionally think of tarts are called hand pies. This term is horrid. If an apple pie is made of apples and a lemon pie is made of lemons, what conclusion would you draw of a hand pie? Exactly. If you know a better name, please tell me.
I could barely wait until my jam tarts were out of the oven before gobbling them up. Usually I didn’t wait and would burn my tongue on the steamy filling. Once I added a spoonful of marshmallow fluff to each jam tart but that was gilding the lily a bit, even for a passionate sugar-lover. I would happily eat an entire batch of tarts, wrapping them in the prettiest dishtowel I could find and sneaking them throughout the evening. Everything would be cleaned up meticulously before my mother got home. Not that she would have cared, really, but I liked having secrets.
Not all my goodie-making experiments turned out so well. Once I tried to melt chocolate chips in a saucepan thinking that they would magically become hot fudge. Instead I completely burned the chocolate and could not get it out of the pan to save my life. Panicking, my solution was to throw the pot into the snowy woods in my backyard. My idea seemed to work and nobody noticed. I’m sure my mother tore apart the kitchen looking for her pan but nobody thought to ask me, seeing as how I was only nine.
Then spring came. The snow melted. And one day my very angry father came storming into the house wanting to know who had left a pan outside. My brother was just a baby so my sister Arianne (who was six at the time) and I were told to stand on the steps so that our faces were at the same level as my father’s. Over and over he demanded to know what had happened. There was no way I was going to fess up. I knew that irate look on my father’s face well. It meant one thing: Spanky-town.
Arianne and I both adamantly denied any knowledge of the pot. Had I half a brain I should have blamed it on one of our terrible babysitters. But all I knew is that I wasn’t about to get in trouble. And no child was as stubborn as I was. My father continued grilling us for an eternity. Finally he announced, “well, I’m just going to have to spank you both until somebody admits it.” This was too much for my poor, tenderhearted sister. “I did it! I left the pan outside!” she wailed. I could not believe this brilliant turn of events. I looked at my sister out of the corner of my eye and remember thinking one word: sucker. I then skipped happily off to my bedroom while I assume my sister got laid across my dad’s knee.
I never felt bad for an instant. Looking back I can’t believe how horrible I was. Apparently those years of Sunday School lessons bounced right off my forehead. But I did learn to use a double boiler when melting chocolate.
*The picture is from one of my very favorite blogs: Aunt Ruthie’s Sugar Pie Farmhouse. She has a delightful–gulp–hand pie recipe that you might want to try.