Pie. A perfect word. And what says spring like rhubarb pie? We had a long winter, really, and the colors and smells this spring remind us why we love, why we procreate and celebrate life. Earlier this evening, looking at a stupendous crab apple, its pink-white blossoms laid across a newly leafed-out maple tree, both of which were thrown against intense blue sunshine-filled sky.
Last weekend I made pie crust dough, planning on making a pie. Well, the weekend got busy and I didn't have any time. Making a pie crust takes ten to fifteen minutes, and there's no substitute for good pie crust. I make mine with a variety of fats; for this one I used four or five tablespoons of butter and a few dollops of duck fat. I used unsalted butter so the salt in the duck fat (which is fat that's still preserving a large batch of confit) was just right for the dough. Two cups of flour and a little more than a quarter cup of ice water and that's it.
This morning I bought strawberries and when I got home I went outside and picked rhubarb. That quick snap of a stalk releasing from the ground is a good feeling. We are right to lament how our diet no longer revolves around local and seasonally available foods, because rhubarb is a testament to the goodness of food that's only available when it's fresh and in season; eating rhubarb every spring is as perennial as Easter. Sugar, a pinch of salt, a little lemon and a sprinkle of cornstarch is all I use. I don't usually use cornstarch but strawberries shed so much liquid that I wanted to hold a little of it together. But, I let it all sit while I rolled out the crust, and I scooped the fruit into the shell and didn't pour the liquid, so it wasn't too runny.
So I called a friend and asked if she and her family wanted to come over and eat pie tonight. She invited me and my kids for dinner, instead, and said they were having brats on the grill. I said sure, and let her know I had a big bottle of heavy cream, too. Sitting in my fridge was a 2005 Toni Jost Barcharacher Hahn Riesling Kabinett, and I knew it'd be perfect for the evening's dinner. So, after cleaning up after a day of heavy chores (my wife is out of the country and I want to get a lot of house/yard projects done while she's away) I showered and we all walked over to our neighbor's yard, where early evening sun still forced us to squint at times. We just indulged ourselves, sitting around, talking and radiating the joy of real spring, drinking our local Summit Maibock, happy to be where we were.
Sandy cried out "What is this?" when she drank the riesling, and raised her hands and eyes to the sky. She took the bottle home (empty of course) because she wants more of it. Enough acidity to keep you awake, and fruit galore: apple and melon (and peach?) and when I lean over to take another sip my nose is pulled into the wineglass because it smells so alive on this late May late afternoon. A finish that feels full in the mouth.
And so we ate and laughed and talked and ate pie. Our kids made a marble maze that rivaled a roller coaster and we watched them roll their marbles down the precarious, well-engineered course. We sat around into the evening, sharing food and friendship, begun earlier in the day with a phone call and a simple word: pie.
birch and grasses alone on the snow, grey sky indistinguishable. the flat world falls into the edge of time, lifeless, dull wedge of horizon and soundless ...