The holiday season awakens the smells and tastes of my youth. Strawberry rhubarb pie was my favorite. As a boy, I would cut the wild rhubarb and give the stalks to my mother who would wash them and cut them into pieces. She would boil the pieces with sugar and then mix in the cutup strawberries. Mom made a lattice top crust for all of her pies.
Being a widower now for more than 14 years, I have had to adjust and learn many domestic functions. But, I never made a fruit pie. I don’t drive anymore and I have some walking problems that restrict my movement so I order my groceries online. It is very convenient. However, the supermarkets that I deal did not have a strawberry rhubarb pie. So, I decided to make one. The store had all the ingredients and I followed all the instructions for assembling the pie. The oven was preheated to the proper temperature so in went the pie. Then the phone rang. It was an important call and I forgot to set the timer for the pie. Sometime later, I finished the phone call and thought of the pie. I removed the ugliest pie in the world from my oven. It was a strawberry rhubarb charcoal pie. I had failed pie-making 101.
This is the time of year that we think of our earliest settlers and their feasts of Thanksgiving. My earliest ancestors on this continent arrived on a wooden sailing ship. They were indentured farmers from the Cornwall section of England. Migrating into what is now North Carolina, they didn’t find any fields to farm; instead, they found a forested wilderness. Trees had to be cut to open up the land for farming and to build their dwellings. These farmers were rank amateurs when it came to lumberjacking and building. Their first attempt at building a dwelling probably turned out somewhat like my strawberry rhubarb pie; a dismal example of craftsmanship.
Years ago, when my family used to gather at all of the holidays, the senior members would start talking about our ancestors. “They lived here for a while and then there for a while and then some place else for awhile.” “Awhile” stood for some period of time. I never found out how long “awhile” was. Was it 10 years? A generation? Was it a century? All I know is that my strawberry rhubarb pie was in the oven “awhile” too long.
Richard Pender is the senior vice commander of American Legion Post 459 in North Brunswick. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.