Eat pie, for tomorrow we may be allergic to lard!
“Hey. Whatcha eatin’ there? Is that pie?” asks a complete stranger.
He’s seated in the same nook of Starbucks as Elsie and me.
The nook with the comfy leather chairs.
A corner tight enough that coffee-shop neighbours generally pretend not to see or hear one another, preferring to let the gurgle and hiss of the expresso machine provide a curtain of noise.
The laws of urban density require a certain amount of pretense.
The higher the density, the greater the requirements — and, at three people per four square metres of cafe space, there ought to be an actual curtain.
Although, to be fair, this is really our own fault.
We should have known better than to smuggle a contraband pie into a place that serves some of the most not-too-bad pastries in the West.
So, when Elsie lifted the cardboard on what is arguably the best pie on the planet — and did so in full view of a coffee shop full of pie have-nots — it was only ever going to get us noticed.
“Yes, peach,” said Elsie. “From the Shuswap Pie Company.”
“Oh, I’ve heard they’re good!”
“And you have not been deceived.”
Now, before I get to the pie, it’s time to tell you this particular coffee date had been eight years in the making.
From sometime in 2003 until we sat down today, poet/memoirist Elsie K. Neufeld and I have occupied the same room only enough times to count on one hand — if that hand has lost a finger or two to frostbite.
Rather, we have come to inhabit each other’s lives through our email inboxes.
Letter by letter, we peeled back each other’s onions, becoming Diana Berrys to each others’ Anne Shirleys until, too, the Pot and Kettle knew enough to call one another black.
“One day,” we wrote, “we will get together for pie. The best pie,”
This had been our promise.
(Our dictum is “Eat pie, for tomorrow we may be allergic to lard!”)
So, here we are, in the same place at the same time, two plastic Starbucks forks poised over a Shuswap Pie Company peach pie, the best pie, bought only hours ago from the company’s headquarters in Salmon Arm.
“Would you like a piece?” Elsie asked the stranger.
While he went to the counter to solicit another plastic fork that will net no returns for Starbucks, we tucked into our long-awaited conversation, a conversation eight years in the waiting.
We talked about writing and touring, of families and friendship.
We talked longer than we mean to, forking up mouthfuls of pie, enjoying the lard of knowing someone and knowing them well.
We talked until our neighbour left and another took his place.
“Hey,” he said, leaning into our conversation.
“Whatcha eatin’ there? Pie?”
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
Pulse together flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture is coarsely crumbly.
Sprinkle one-quarter cup ice water over crumbs, pulsing until mixture just begins to hold its shape when squeezed. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed. Divide dough in half and wrap each with plastic wrap. Press each into a disk and refrigerate for at least one hour.
7 cups frozen peaches (fresh in season)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. light cream
Sugar for sanding
In a large bowl, toss frozen peaches together with sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon. Allow to thaw.
Meanwhile, on lightly floured surface, roll out pastry disk to 13 inches. Fit into a nine-inch pie plate.
Stir peaches and heap into pie shell.
Roll out second crust and fit over top. Trim and crimp edges, then cut six three-inch vents in the crust.
Beat together yolk and cream. Brush over surface and edges of pie (some will be leftover: discard). Sprinkle generously with sugar. Chill 30 minutes.
Transfer pie to a baking sheet and into oven a 400 F oven. Bake 20 minutes, reduce temperature to 350 F and bake 55 more.
Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
(Note: recipe is my best knockoff, not stolen from the Shuswap Pie Company.)
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press).
For past recipes, go online to nicefatgurdie.wordpress.com.
She can be contacted at email@example.com.