Have you ever asked someone for a recipe when your taste buds have exploded with joy after that first bite? And then their sly-smiled response is: "It's a family secret!"
Wow, what a letdown! I mean, would it be reasonable to expect an invitation to every meal with this person and then ask them to make that same dish each and every time? Wouldn't it just be easier to share the recipe so folks aren't knocking at your back door whenever wonderful aromas are wafting throughout the neighborhood? For me, the answer is easy. Sharing is caring, right?
One of my most treasured possessions from my depression-era mom, who died nearly 40 years ago, is her hand-written recipe book. The worn red fabric cover is filled with yellowing pages that are home to smudges of shortening, flour, and some dark substance that looks to be (or, should I say, hope it to be) vanilla extract. Although some 100 or so carefully constructed in cursive recipes are bound in this small three-ringed binder, there is one page that is loose because of overuse. Her pie crust recipe.
That recipe was passed down from my Grandma Iva, who lived with us half of the year and with my first cousins, Tim and Tom, who lived over a ways in Indiana, the other half of the year. She was my guardian angel and sadly, I last felt one of her hugs when I was seven years old. She gracefully departed this life in her sleep following a very happy Mother's Day party in 1969 when all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren came to our Illinois home to celebrate with our beloved matriarch.
I think of her, and my mom, every time I pull out that recipe book to follow one of their three cardinal rules planted inside my brain at a very early age: 1) Always make bread from scratch; 2) Always make noodles from scratch — and by far the one I have followed most religiously; and 3) Always make your pie crust from scratch. To my mom and grandma, I may have let you down on the first rule, but I have never let you down on the last two.
Baking pies is a source of comfort for me. When the weather is dreary, when I am feeling sad, when I am missing my best friend who died four years ago... Sometimes, there is nothing more calming than the feel of soft dough in your hands as you bind together the five ingredients that, when put together, never fails to heal what might be ailing. While standing and rolling dough in the same kitchen where my mom and grandma once worked their culinary magic, I have wistful thoughts that somewhere they are looking down on me proudly as I turn out a pie crust which is hopefully as good as theirs.
Depending on the season, I might fill that flaky crust with the awesome yumminess of my homemade canned apple pie filling, fresh cherries from my tree or sweet peaches that I have bartered for with a neighbor. To share a piece of this pie with a friend while we laugh, cry, or reminisce reminds me that everything good about living a simple life can be found in these five simple ingredients when mixed together with love and kindness.
To share their recipe with you is the greatest tribute I can give to these two fine women who filled my young life with so many good memories. It also makes it easier for you to enjoy rather than having you drive all around rural central Illinois trying to find my back door. I hope you love it as much as I do!
Grandma Iva's Pie Crust Recipe
• 3 cups of flour
• 1 cup of lard
• Dash of salt
• 3 T sugar (If I want it sweeter, I add 1/3 - 1/2 cup of sugar)
• 2/3 cup of water
1. Blend flour, salt, sugar and lard. Add water. This dough is soft.
2. Use little flour on board to roll.
Photos by Lori DeYoung