Yesterday I baked a delicious peach and blueberry pie for my boys and I and “wow – was it good”. My neighbors had brought us over a half a dozen extra peaches that they had picked at a local orchard, and combined with a few I had purchased at the store last week and a pint of wild Maine blueberries that I acquired at the farmstand – I had all the inspiration I needed to pull it together. Baking pies reminds me of my two aunts who were never married, have lived together their entire lives and who were an extremely significant fixture in my life from childhood to the present day. Emma (96) was the cook of the two, but Violet (94) had one skill in the kitchen – and that was baking pies. Actually, the combination of peaches and blueberries was inspired by my favorite of possible fillings from a pie I remember her making when I was little. Though I am a damn good cook, having grown up in a family where cooking delicious homemade food was the norm that my parents excelled in and having worked as a cook and chef for many years when I was younger – I am not a baker. But pie, is the one exception to this rule. It’s simple really and with pies as with regular cooking you can “wing it” as opposed to other types of baking which require recipes in order to turn out correctly. I hate following recipes – as it takes some of the joy out of cooking for me. The requirements of having the ingredients on someone else’s list, and specific instructions for the “how to” portion of the process – by their very nature leave out the spontaneity and creativity in the process which apparently, I don’t just prefer – in some ways I require.
Maybe that’s how Aunt Violet did it, maybe not and in fact it doesn’t really matter. If you enjoy the experience and the end result comes out to your liking it doesn’t really matter what your process was. Of course, the “what is in the fridge that I can turn into dinner” method that I most often employ – can make it a little tricky when you are trying to re-create something that you enjoyed before – but that doesn’t mean the final product will be a disappointment. I wouldn’t be a good executive chef – developing menus for my staff to create consistently and effectively night after night from the same menu – but ask me to develop some daily specials – and I’m your gal!
There is a time and place for order and repetition and a time and place for creative experimentation. Figuring out what works best for you in any given circumstance is the key. Trusting in yourself to stray from the directions a bit knowing that you will still produce excellent results is a perfectly good choice to make. Not every experiment produces a five-star creation but neither does every recipe. Determining which technique is right for you and when to apply which method, is the trick. So, that said – whatcha got in your oven?