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The Paring Knife
“Peach.” “Peach.” “Apple,” were the answers I got simultaneously when I asked what kind of pie I should make. Melissa asked her dad, Phil, what kind of pie he wanted. “Oh, I’ll eat anything.” He answered.
Since his was the next birthday coming up, and this was going to be his birthday pie, she pressed for commitment, “Dad, if you were in a restaurant, what kind of pie would you order?”
Phil blushed, “Oh, I would probably order apple.” That’s his favorite.
“Then apple pie it is.” I said. This would require a trip to the store; the pie calls for four or five apples and I didn’t have any.
When we got back to their house, I was trying to find my way around Carol’s kitchen. It’s always a little more challenging to cook or bake in someone else’s kitchen because I don’t know where things are. I found the pie pan. “Carol, where’s your rolling pin? Carol, do you have more flour? Carol, where would I find…” With each call she came to the kitchen, pulling out what I asked for, then returned to the living room to visit with Phil and Melissa.
I looked through the drawer of utensils. “Carol? Where would I find your potato peeler?” Carol asked why I needed one. “To peel the apples.” I replied.
She called back, “Use my paring knife – it’s a real good one.” I told her it was easier for me to use a peeler. “I don’t have a potato peeler.” She said.
“How do you peel potatoes without a potato peeler?” I questioned.
Carol looked at me funny, as if I should have known and said, “With the paring knife. I always use a paring knife, don’t you?”
I confessed, “I can’t tell you the last time I used a paring knife to peel an apple, a potato or a carrot. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I have ever used one for that.” I guess it was time to give it a try.
When I peel apples (with a peeler) I start at the stem then make my way from top to bottom, around the apple, taking the whole skin off in one long curly piece that kind of looks like a stretched-out Slinkey. Sometimes I try to put the coiled piece back together in my cupped palm to reconstruct a hollow apple.
I tried my technique using the paring knife. After hacking three small, individual pieces of apple skin, I said, “This is going to take a long time to do five apples.”
“No, it won’t” Carol assured while walking to the kitchen. “You need to quarter the apple first.” With a large kitchen knife, I cut the apple into four pieces. Using her paring knife, Carol removed the core and seeds, then skillfully cut the skin off each quarter. As she worked, Carol told me how her mom had taught her to use the paring knife. When she was done, I checked out the skins she removed and they might have been even thinner than mine – they certainly weren’t any thicker.
I took two mixing bowls down from the top shelf of the cupboard; Texas Ware bowls. Texas Ware melamine bowls are cool! They were manufactured from the mid-forties, into the eighties. They come in a variety of sizes and colors; each is speckled with various colors making it unique. With the multiple sizes, they are easy to store stacking one inside another. They were often called “garbage bowls” or, “end of the day bowls.” Ladies would set one on the counter while cooking to toss peels, egg shells and other food scraps into the bowl. Then, at the end of the day, take them out to empty on the compost by the garden.
Carol has a large green and a smaller orange Texas Ware bowl. They belonged to her mom; Melissa’s Grandma, Lucille. The bowls are not only very useful, these are family heirlooms and it was certainly a pleasure to use them making Phil’s birthday pie.
After Carol peeled them, I cut the apples into thin slices and put them in the large green bowl. I stirred in my spices and set them off to the side. Using the smaller orange bowl, I mixed the flour and salt, then cut in the shortening. I rolled out the bottom crust and laid it carefully inside the glass pie pan – this was also Lucille’s.
Pie pan sizes are an opinion, if you will. For example: a “nine-inch pan” can range from eight and a half, to almost ten inches – and depths vary, too.
I formed the bottom crust into the pan and poured in the apple mixture. Since the pan was much deeper than most; I was sure glad I got five apples rather than four. I rolled out the top crust and trimmed and fluted the edges. Instead of cutting my usual pattern in the top crust, I used Carol’s sharp paring knife to carefully carve a large P for Phil. I put the pie in the oven and soon the whole house had the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg; an apple pie baking.
That evening, after supper, we presented the pie while singing, “Happy Birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Phil...” His pie was still warm when I cut the first slice. Carol added a scoop of vanilla ice cream and handed the plate to Phil, then one to Melissa, me and one for herself.
Watching the family enjoy the pie, sure makes the baker feel warm inside. Using Grandma Lucille’s bowls and pie pan, and, watching Carol peel the apples the way she taught her, I really felt like Lucille was there with us. Even though I never had the pleasure of meeting her, that made me feel even warmer.
I decided when I make my next pie, I would try peeling the apples with a paring knife. I’m sure I could have learned to do it but I didn’t get the chance. You see the next pie I baked was for one of the girls who voted for peach.
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