“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” ― David Mamet
Diet experts and Marxists warn against imbuing things and food with abstract emotions and values. Yet, the alchemy of pie makes it hard to deny that these homespun pastries embody love, family, and human connection.
Before Thanksgiving, I put out a call to readers of History Colorado's weekly digest to share their pie recipes, memories, and stories. I noted that, “Pie is part history and part chemistry: flour, fat and fruit transformed into golden memories of goodness and possibilities.” The responses I received certainly validated this.
While I did get some recipes, which I will share below, people sent me pie-related notes that reminded me of the cosmic connection we have as Coloradans. I heard from a former coworker I haven't seen in years, current-day colleagues, past generational connections, and pie-plus-history enthusiasts from around the state.
One of the most touching messages came from JoAnn Johnson in Greeley. She is the author of the cookbook Campobello Sunrise, Colorado Sunset, a historic cookbook in our collection with pie crust recipes that I shared in my last piece. Best of all, in a Colorado-style few degrees of separation, JoAnn shared that she knew my own very beloved Auntie Linda. She used to work with her in the financial aid office at the University of Southern Colorado and they also spent many summer hours together in the stands watching youth baseball games at Runyon Field. A surprise email reminder of this favorite aunt, who is no longer with us, was a special gift for me. She also shared her cream puff recipe—a sweet personalized pastry treat for her and her six younger siblings.
I heard from many wondering if the woman in the photograph, Dorothy Passanante DiSipio cooking in her kitchen on Elm Street in Pueblo, was one of my ancestors. Mrs. DiSipio is not, but I do have ancestral connection to Pueblo’s Elm Street. My great grandmother Bettina Trappaglia Masterstefano immigrated from southern Italy to southern Colorado in the early 1900s and the ship's manifest listed Elm Street, Pueblo, Colorado, as her final destination. It is likely our families knew each other.
I did hear from the wonderful descendents of Mrs. DiSipio, who were delighted to see their relative featured in our weekly digest. Pauline DiSipio, daughter of Dorothy and cousin to JoAnn Johnson (mentioned above), wrote: “I LOVE PIE! The pie crust recipe of my Grandma Paolina and Mama Dorothy were so simple, often with lard, and so delicious! I remember Ricotta Fried Pies, Lemon Pies, Cream Pies and more made by my Mama.”
Steve Plutt, longtime preservationist from Park County, sent me a photo of his rhubarb pie ready for the oven. Dutiful son and Coloradan Norm Fox, who loves Colorado as much as he loves his kids and grandkids, told me of his 50+ years of delighting in his mother-in-law's delicious banana cream pie, while simultaneously pretending to like his own mother's "awful" banana cream pie. Both scrumptious and atrocious pie eating as an act of love!
My colleague Abby Krause, who leads History Colorado’s Exhibit Design & Production, demonstrated pie baking as an act of love. She told her team that she would bake them each a pie for Thanksgiving, if they brought her a pie plate to use. She said, “I made 12 pie crusts last week.” She also sent me this yummy maple buttermilk recipe. Others, like Luda Polyakova, told me they were inspired to make pie from scratch for the very first time.
As for my Thanksgiving pie, I made two: lemon buttermilk and apple pie. The apple pie was a gift for my brother who was born on Thanksgiving and loves apple pie. Here is my recipe.
Cut in 2 sticks of butter into 2.5 cups of flour. (I use a food processor but you also do it by hand.) Incorporate 1/4-1/2 c of very cold water. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Peel, core and thinly slide 5-7 apples. Mix with 1/4 c of flour, 1/3 c brown sugar, 1 t cinnamon, 1 t vanilla, and 1/2 t nutmeg. Dot the top of the filling with 3T of butter before covering with the top crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
May your holidays be warm and healthy
May your pies all be flaky and sweet
May your homes be warm and cheerful
Hopeful for days when again we can meet
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