About a year ago I received a very sweet and sentimental gift, which are, in my opinion, the best kind, from my Nana. It was a recipe book that had been sitting on the women of our families pantry shelves for generations; The Joy of Cooking. She had sent it to me knowing that, being a newly married bride and therefore a beginning cook, I could use some good, solid, sound advice in the kitchen to guide my everyday meal planning experiences for our newly founded family. The inscription read “To Blair, my darling granddaughter, My mother shared with me, and now I pass to you. Happy Cooking! xoxo Nana”. The inscription and the fact that this was THE cookbook which guided my Nana and Menow’s, or great grandmothers, fingertips to create famous family meals for generations was what meant the most to me. It was as if I now possessed the power to make my own famous family meals that would leave my loved ones salivating for the leftovers, if there even were any, the next day!
But then I began to look at the size of the book! Gigantic! As I perused the pages I could not help but feel overwhelmed by the 4,500 recipes, as well as menu planning tips and guides, that filled the spine. How would I ever even know where to begin? So I filed the book away with the few other recipe books I had collected to be revisited at a later date.
A year came and went and one night as Matt and I were sitting on the couch having a in home movie date night the name of my Nana’s and Menow’s cookbook kept coming up in the film we were watching. The characters in this movie kept talking about how it was THE go to cook book, the original, that changed in home cooking forever. So naturally, after the movie I was curious and wanted to give my Nana’s cookbook a second glance, because not only did I think it was the key to becoming an incredible cook, like the rest of the women in my family, but so did America.
Again what I found was 4,500 daunting recipes, but began to just look at specific sections. With my chronic sweet tooth, the one that I came to first was of course the pies and pastries. I started reminiscing about my Nana’s famous Derby Pie and my Aunt B’s delicious Broccoli Cheese Quiche. The women in my family literally are renowned for their baking skills, in particular their pies. Seriously, contests have been won in the pie department based on the fact that their crusts always turn out so perfectly flaky and buttery; it just melts right in your mouth. Pie and I though, well we have a different relationship; there is history. Right after Matt and I were first married I felt it was my genealogical gifting to be able to make an outstanding pie. I mean after all, all the women on my fathers side of the family had this magical skill so therefore I must be destined, right? Wrong! Pie crust did not, and still does not, come naturally to me. Whenever I endeavor to make a pie it does not turn out perfectly flaky and buttery, to the point that it will melt in your mouth, just like my Nana’s. Nope, mine turns out tough, crunchy, and sometimes even a bit burnt on the bottom. It would be more likely to break your teeth then melt in your mouth. Kudo’s to my loving and kind husband for always being so gentle with me in this area though. For always lifting me up and encouraging me when it would have been extremely easy to tear me down. He still wont admit that it’s as bad as it is, and whenever I attempt to make a pie Matt, to my complete bewilderment, eats it, and not just one piece to be cordial.. he will even go back for seconds. Now if that type of sacrifice is not love, then I don’t know what is.
In all seriousness though, as I was pouring over the beautiful pie section of my Nana’s cookbook, it struck me! Maybe the secret to their success is in the book! Maybe if I bake my way through the pies and pastries section of this long standing family gem that was passed down to me I will finally unleash that magical touch that has won over some many stomachs for generations, making friends and family save just a little bit of extra room at the end of a wondrous meal when they hear their is pie for desert? After all, it was in my Menow’s possession before Nana’s and now it is in mine. So I would practically have two of the best bakers I know with me in spirit to guide my adventures as I attempted to get this whole pie thing down pat. And if at the end of 62 pies, for some reason, I still can not make the perfectly flaky, buttery crust that has deemed the women in my family for so long as amazing bakers, then I will put them all to shame and begin using the store bought Pillsbury crust that you can find in the freezer isle and seems to come out perfectly every time, whether you have the ability to craft it yourself or not.
Therefore I have decided to bake my way through the entire pie section of the cookbook The Joy of Cooking in hopes that after 62 recipes I will finally have earned my place in the kitchen and stop putting my incredible husband through pie crust agony! Of course Matt was on board with this idea. He even did the honor of choosing the first pie that I should begin with, Pecan Pie, which was quite a high mark to start out with considering his mom makes the best version of this pie I have ever tasted! As for the days you can expect to read about how this particular challenge of ours is going, come back every Sunday to hear about that weeks sweet tooth indulgent for project pie!
Much Love & Prayer,