“The other senses may be enjoyed in all their beauty when one is alone. but taste is largely social.” — Diane Ackerman
“You were the pickiest eater,” my father once said when I served him spaghetti at my family table. He spoke in reference to his five daughters. I’m number two.
Justifiably, my father expected his children’s gratitude for the forty-five hours he stood on his feet barbering each week to feed, clothe, and shelter us. Even when Mom cooked beef tongue and liver with onions.
“Eewww,” chimed my sisters and me in agreement to the “gross” thing on the platter, or the “stinky” meat in Mom’s frying pan. We would rather devour her hamburger gravy on mashed potatoes.
A former farm girl who cooked for her family of seven from age eleven until World War II, my mother mastered every dish her palate approved.
Chop Suey and Italian spaghetti, for starters. From allspice to turmeric, my mother’s spice rack sparkled like a queen’s jewels. She knew how to perfectly use them.
My sisters and I loved “spaghetti night” because it meant entertainment by our baby sister who sucked the noodles into her mouth. Even Dad laughed.
An Irishman who preferred meat and potatoes, my father barely tolerated spaghetti. And he vowed in Guam’s trenches to never eat a mouthful of rice again.
Furthermore, Dad could not countenance a casserole of any kind. His meat and potatoes must be served in separate bowls.
Such restrictions tested my mother’s culinary creative streak. Employing an alternative, she cooked Italian spaghetti or Chop Suey on Dad’s bowling night. My older sister’s raving reviews spread to her boyfriends who just happened to drop in on Dad’s bowling night. For Mom usually concluded dinner with dessert. Apple pie, her specialty.
Incidentally, Dad “never met a pie he didn’t like,” particularly Mom’s pies in season.
“I could fill this kitchen with fried pies I packed in your father’s lunch bucket,” Mom once said with her hands wrapped around her coffee cup.
I suspect that’s one reason why my father latched onto Sadie McCoy when she met him at the Williamson, West Virginia train station upon his return from World War II.
Since our apple trees didn’t produce this year, I drove north on our backroads through farmland and orchards to Hilltop Farm with pie on my mind.
“I have one caramel apple pie left,” Ruth, the Pie Lady said.
“Oh my goodness! caramel apple?” I cried.
Ruth smiled. “Yes, and we also have caramel apples for sale.”
“Thank you, but I’m on a mission for pie to celebrate autumn and my heritage. Caramel apple is perfect. I think my husband will like it, too.”
Dear Reader, my father was right. I am a picky eater. What I don’t grow and preserve myself, I try to buy organically and locally grown, prepared by folk like the Pie Lady.
If my father were here today, I’d say, “You know Dad, apple number two didn’t fall far from the tree.”
Contact Iris at email@example.com.