In the beginning, there was no pie. There was a collection of ingredients: flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, a sprinkle of salt. And, of course, apples. An old colander, much battered and dulled with continual use, contained an assortment of Granny Smith apples. These were of various shapes and none of them held the possibility of the perfection demanded by grocery store chains. They had been gathered from the gnarled old tree which reached a little further each year across the chook yard. Each season, after the blush of the blossoms, the nuggety fruit began to take shape. If the apples survived the wind, late snow and the rampaging cockatoos, they would eventually make their way into the kitchen if picked before their stalks no longer held them and they tumbled down into easy range of the chooks.
With the oven ticking away in the background, the apples were peeled with brisk efficiency. A small sharp knife, well used and shaped into the cook’s hand, was used to core and slice each apple. The segmented fruit was then spiralled into the waiting pie base, dusted with spice and carefully entombed by the pie lid. The top of the pie was glazed and a couple of sharp nicks added for ventilation then into the oven.
As the sweet, enticing aroma of baking apple pie filled the house, people started to arrive. This wasn’t planned, it just seemed to coincide with the baking of the pie. When the old kitchen timer rattled and dinged, the cook snared a tea towel and eased the pie out. The steam eddying out of the slight holes was fragrant and as the pie rested on the bench the pastry glowed golden in the afternoon light.
As the table began to fill with passing folk, a collection of mismatched bowls and plates were dotted about, along with spoons and a jug of thickened cream. A shaker of cinnamon was added too, along with the large aluminium teapot and an assortment of mugs. The pie was moved into the middle of the table along with a knife and server. The conversation ebbed and flowed as tea was poured, milk added and the sugar bowl did the rounds. Eyes flickered about, waiting for the signal to start. It was an unspoken agreement to wait until the cook finally sat down. Then it was on.
There were silver glints in the afternoon light as the knife was wielded and slices of the warm, golden pie were shared around the table. After the initial clatter of spoons on plates and slurps of tea, there was a contented silence as smiles were exchanged along with a covetous glance or two at the remaining pie slices. A smile and nod from cook was the final blessing required and the pie was polished off.
In the end, there was no pie.
[Photo: Granny Smith apples]