fresh strawberry no-bake pie + a home of one’s own

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Last week I had breakfast with an old friend and I was thick in the business of anger. I talked about people who’ve ventured beyond what is comfortable in an effort to be there in my darkest moments, while people I’ve known for years, people with whom I’ve shared my innards, eek by with a perfunctory phone call, a quick email or text. Confused and hurt, I prattled on to my friend whom I’ve known for years. After a long pause, she offered this: Maybe people think you need your space; you’re this intensely private person, you’re fiercely independent, so much so that people might think that you can actually handle this all on your own. But! But! But I can’t. How do they know that? How do I know that? she said in a way that was caring, but succinct, honest in a way that broke through. After all of these years of not needing people, of architecting a wall, creating a fortress around this ticking clock that is my heart, I have to be the one that says, out loud: I need you. Come on in.

This is not easy. I’m uncomfortable with asking for help. I hate the words: can you, I need, Is it possible? Perhaps I’m holding on to the last vestiges that bind me to my mother, for she was a woman who never cried, thought vulnerability a sickness, a disease that deserved a proper snuffing out, and that left an indelible mark. For years I’ve been impenetrable, so this notion of old habits being hard to break? It’s true.

Yesterday, I spent the day with my father, and his is the sort of kindness that puts my heart on pause. My father leads a very simple, quiet life, and I don’t say this in the pejorative, I don’t judge any of this — in fact, I often feel small alongside all of his goodness. My largeness seems laughable against a man who has consistently lived a noble, dignified life. We watched movies sitting side by side in plush chairs, passing a bowl of cookies between us, and I told my father that he’s a good man, the best I know, and he turned to me and said, You’re not so bad too.

We laughed as we’re prone to do, and he pressed on. Told me he’s proud of the woman I’ve grown into, specifically within the past few years. I’m calmer now, less impatient, less prone to volcanic acts and material cravings. When I told him about this conversation I had with a friend, how I lamented that I’m trying so hard to let people in, he agreed that this is the last big part of the wall that needs a proper wreckage.

I told my father about this ambitious project I’ve got cooking, a project that requires a few other people to make some magic, and he joked and offered his home as a place to stay if things don’t work out. To which I snapped that a 37-year-old woman doesn’t move home with dad when things get tough. And he laughed and laughed and said, There goes that pride again. There goes the I can’t do it on my own, again. There goes that wall, that will, which refuses to bend.

When I left yesterday, my father said that we’re alright people. We’re good stock. I hugged him and promised to bring him a pie this week, much like this one, and he offered that maybe my baking could be a first step in venture into the archaic language of need. Of want. Of love.

But then again, sometimes people can try harder. Just as much as I’m trying harder. GRRR.

{work in progress, as always}

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from the forthcoming Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, review forthcoming in Medium
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups hulled and quartered strawberries, plus 4 1/2 cups (cut very large berries into eighths and leave very small ones whole; three pounds whole berries total)
1 1/8 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 9 crackers)
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped (optional)

DIRECTIONS
In a medium saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, the cornstarch and salt. Add 3 cups of the strawberries and roughly mash the fruit with the end of a whisk. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heave, whisking constantly and further mashing the strawberries until they are broken down (some berry lumps are okay). Boil for a full minute, whisking constantly. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the crust. In a large bowl, stir together the graham crackers, the remaining tablespoon of sugar, and the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Very lightly press the crumbs into a nine inch pie dish, starting with the sides and then covering the bottom.

When the strawberry mixture is at room temperature, gently stir in the remaining 4 1/2 cups of strawberries, then spoon the filling into the graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to 2 days. Serve with whipped cream.

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3 thoughts on “fresh strawberry no-bake pie + a home of one’s own

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