Cooking Pies with Mother-The Atlantic monthly, Volume 128

At our house pies were a real occasion fraught with happiness, and everything was as it should have been. Mother, distant far-away pretty mother, descended into the kitchen with a large red checked gingham apron, which flowed all over her pretty shoulders and gave size and matronly proportions to her otherwise slim figure. Her face became flushed with the happiness of manual labor. And I watched her with ecstasy as she handled the huge old range, dexterously shutting a draft here, opening one there, until the stove glowed in pride and a red heat of anticipated pleasure. Mother allowed none of the servants in the kitchen when she descended to make pies. That was what made the day one long day of satisfaction—revealing mother to me intimately, personally, as I saw her upstairs.

You who have never had far-away artist mothers can never know the long lonesome days that glide into each other endlessly. You can never know how ravenously I watched and listened and smelled during these fragrant, spicy hours.

After the fire-building came great bowls from the pantry; and together mother and I searched the dark, damp cellar for apples and jars of fruit. I clung to her hand and felt well-nigh to bursting as I thought how brave my pretty mother must be; for, while I was peering furtively at the dark places for spiders and black, crawly things, mother walked lightly and assuredly, clasping her hand firmly over mine when she felt me start. How I loved her for that!

When we came back laden with apples and jars of fruit, I always climbed up on cook's huge, old chair right next to the tables — something I never dared to do on other days, even when cook was in her most engaging mood. I watched mother empty jars swiftly; plums and pears and peaches splashing gayly into saucepans. It seemed to me mother's hands never looked daintier or more beautiful than when she took a pinch of this brown spice or a pinch of that yellow, softer stuff from the spice-jars. She hesitated and studied about each pinch. One would think she was hesitating over the browns in one of her great pictures.

Soon the saucepans were bubbling merrily on the stove, sending out cinnamons and spices from Araby, and mother was in the most delicious part of the pie-making — mixing the crust! I never asked to help roll. I did not want to miss one fraction of a minute watching the delightful process in mother's hands.

Gradually the whole room, the whole

world, seemed to be a rolling pie-crust. Back and forth it rolled, twisting gracefully, squeezing out from under the rolling-pin, farther and farther across the table. The whole room seemed suddenly to have become quiet, watching mother. The fire crackled less noisily, and the saucepans lowered their bubbling to a gentle simmer. They were watching mother and listening to her humming snatches of the 'Marseillaise' and gently thumping and coaxing endless pie-crust into delicate crusty sheets. Once in a while, she would pause and would smile happily, dreamily at me. I squirmed restlessly then, for I thought with a pang that to-morrow she would be my far-away mother again.

I watched her pour the saucepans full of spicy fruit into deep cavernous crusts. I watched her fit the top crusts over the pies, closing the steaming fruit into a prison of juicy fragrance. I watched her — oh, endlessly! It seemed to me I never could watch her enough on these rare, glorious days when I really owned a real mother.

As the brown crusty smell of baking crust mingled with the fruit and spices and filled the air with warmth and fragrance, my mother gathered me into her arms. She drew up cook's old rocker, and we traveled back together to other days, when mother was a girl, back to a tiny house in Southern France where there were sisters and sisters and sisters, and nobody ever got lonely, and mother's face grew very young and gay; gay, wet curls fell over her eyes as she told about the grapes to pick, and the work to be finished before a day was called a day; as she told me of spankings and great holidays. We laughed recklessly! The young, pretty artist-mother of mine was warm and tender. How I loved her, and how I longed for all days to be filled with large juicy pies and a warm regular mother!
Cooking Pies with Mother-The Atlantic monthly, Volume 128