Small Towns Come Together At A Time Of Loss
We have had two deaths in town this recently. It often seems to happen like that with losses coming in pairs or triplets. Neither of the passings was unexpected. The first was a farmer nearing one hundred years and the second was a woman who had been ill for some time. Because Bruce and I live next door to the church we are often the â€œgo-toâ€ people for some of the details. The CD is dropped off here. The delivery accepted. The key picked up. The morning of one of the services, Bruce was there early, setting up the sound system and making sure the heat was on. I went shortly afterward to organize seating and help prepare for the reception after the service.
Early that same morning, the food poured in. People bring their best. The plates are old and lovely although the finish is fading and there may be a chip along the edge. The napkins are often hand-embroidered, covering biscuits made from an old family recipe (the secret is the lard). The food is not fancy. There will be no exotic cheeses, no out-of-season fruit platters and nothing will be store-bought. There will be lots of cakes and pies, transported in containers that have brought the same cake and the same pie to countless other church suppers and funeral receptions. The chicken pie will arrive in the same pie plate, so familiar that when we wash dishes this afternoon, any one of us can say. â€œOh dear. Emma left her pie plate behind. Iâ€™ll just wash it up and drop it off on my way byâ€.
Comfort Food. Literally
There is a comfort in the old and familiar at times like this. It reminds of the circle that our lives are. My blue pie plate belonged to my mother and before her it was in my Aunt Louâ€™s kitchen. I love the deep cobalt of the glass. I can imagine that one of my daughters or sons will find it after Iâ€™m gone and take it home. It will find a new life and new home holding memories along with Blueberry Criss-Cross Pie, made from the recipe I inherited from my mother-in-law. The berries will come from the bushes we planted the year Henry was born. Circles.
There will be tears today. No matter how expected or even welcome death may be, we weep and we bring food. We bring comfort and hold memories of good times and good food, shared history and the warmth of community with blessings to all.
Blueberry Crisscross Pie
You need to start with a rich crust for this. I donâ€™t add butter as the flavor competes with the fruit.
Sift 2 cups white flour with a teaspoon of salt then cut in a bit under 1 cup lard. Make sure the lard is good and cold. Sprinkle the dough with about 4 tablespoons ice water. You may need a bit more water. You want a dough that isnâ€™t at all sticky and will hold together when you pinch it. Divide the dough in two balls. Roll the first in a circle. I have a pastry cloth with the dimensions stamped on it but you can use a pie plate as a template.
Roll out the second ball in a rectangle. Cut the rectangle in long strips. These will be woven across the top of the pie for a crisscross design.
Start with 4 cups of fresh blueberries. They can be frozen. Add 2/3 cup of sugar, Â¼ cup of flour and maybe a splash of lemon juice. Put the filling in the pie and add the top crust. It looks tricky but it really isnâ€™t. Perhaps a bit time consuming but the result is worth it.
Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Make sure to put the pie plate on a cookie sheet as itâ€™s going to boil over and make a dreadful, smoky mess.