Life by the ‘Size of the Bowl’

Blackberry Pie !!

When I was a child of eight years there were bushes of blackberry plants that grew along the left side of the fence of my Grandmothers garden. They were plumb and juicy and I could just taste the sweetness of a wonderful Blackberry Pie rolling around in my mind.
“I’ll pick the berries if you make the pie Grandma.” “Not today little one, she replied I’m just not feeling well enough to roll the dough and besides it has gotten too difficult for me to do things from my wheel chair anymore.”
Being an impatient as well as  curious I had watched her make many a pie before the really old age part had come for her. Now my turn to do for her came into my heart as well as my want of a Blackberry Pie.
I remember her always measuring everything before she began into separate measuring cups spoons and bowls. With all the ingredients mixed, she would make the pie dough first and form it into two balls, wrap them in wax paper and put them in the icebox to chill. When I would ask why we had to wait and do such a silly thing as wrap her pie dough in wax paper and prolong the making of a delicious pie, she said the dough needed to set and be cool so it would roll out to be the perfect crust for whatever pie she might be making that day.
I recall looking at my beautiful grandmother and  realizing her pie making days were behind her and my pie baking days were about to begin.
Many was the time she had told me the story about patience being a virtue. There were times I simply choose to ignore the warning. Be careful with that little ditty you might get what you want but the cost may be too high a price down the road when it’s time to pay up.
I would later find out in life that patience really is a virtue and as difficult as it is to follow it works well for nearly all things in life. There are times, however that your heart will pull you to the point that you know in your gut that it is time to go forward and go immediately. Heed these feelings and follow your dreams.
The reward that follows will be your work will be a joy of giving if it is what you want most from it. Your family will be a joy to you if you can’t wait to get up in the morning to love and care for them.
Above all take care of yourself. Care for your health, your time with prayer and meditation, your personal needs and mental health so that you can participate in life not pass through it lost in the seemingly overwhelming events of each day. Learn in life sometimes it is okay to say NO!
I, however still wanted a plumb delicious Blackberry pie and having not yet fully grasp the full meaning of patience began my task of getting one made.
Let’s see I’ll need water, flour from the Hoosier cabinet, Crisco or lard and salt. But how much of each will I need. I didn’t want to wait for the dough to settle and cool all wrapped up in wax paper in the ice box so I simply took a glass of water and stuck it into little freezer part of our ole fashion ice box. It was my child like solution to the waiting on the dough to cool and set so it could be rolled out as part of the process of pie making.
Much of life’s innovations have come from a need to do things better and faster and there is no reason that all the old ways must be followed as it has been done in the generations before ours. Make your own mark on life using the old and adding the new.
Grabbing my Grandmothers woven wicker basket out into the thick of the blackberry patch I ran picking berries from both sides of the garden fence.  What didn’t end up in my mouth ended up in the basket until it was full. I’m gleaming that this took me about an hour to do because I was eating as many as I was picking.
When I returned with my basket full of blackberries my poor old Grandmother had fallen asleep for her afternoon nap.
I began looking around her kitchen until I found what I thought would be the right size bowl to mix the dough. I turned the knob of the gas oven on to lit the pilot light with a long match. She kept bunches of them in a copper holder nailed to the wall next to the stove. When I bent down to light the match on a special stone she kept on the floor next to the stove I read what had been carved on it.

The rock said, “grow old with me the best is yet to be.”  Funny how you can pass something even stumble into it and then there it is in full meaning.
I realized I was getting a glimpse into her life that one day would be my own and it made my heart sing because I loved her so.
I opened the oven door and when the lit match crossed the pilot light it made a puff sound just like it had done for my grandmother a thousand time before.
I stood there in front of her old gas stove and wondered what temperature I should choose for the baking process of this my very first pie. It came to my memory that almost everything was baked at 350 degrees except the turkey for thanksgiving. So 350 degrees it is then for me and my Blackberry pie and so I set the temperature for 350 degrees and shut the oven door.
A Hoosier Cabinet is built small but has storage for small things like spices and such and a wonderful metal box that one puts flour in. When you want to bake or cook something that requires flour you just open the cabinet door crank the handle and sift out what you want into the bowl you have placed under it. It’s not a means of measurement but the greatest of a sifter for flour.
Cranking the little handle I begin to fill my bowl. How much I wonder of flour should I sift into my bowl. I don’t know so I sifted flour until I believed I have the amount just right for my blackberry pie.
Life may be a little like sifting flour. You must be careful not to take on more than you can handle. You must decide what size your bowl will be in life so as to fill it full of joy.
In the old days women used lard for everything from frying chicken, eggs and also for baking. Now in this new fangled world along came Crisco and hog butchering for the boiling of fat to render into lard for cooking and soap making became a thing of the past. You may want to study the things of the past they may yet again come in handy.
The past has a way of repeating itself. If you are not careful making wise choices so as to only keep those things good that worked well and discard the unwanted ways that have led to troubles, trials and tribulations you could find yourself in a pickle of your own making one day. Don’t fret over it just cut your losses and move forward learning all the while.
Retrieving the Crisco tub, how much I wondered will I need to make the dough crumbly so it will be light and fluffy to touch and taste when baked? So with a big spoon and my Grandmothers thing-a-ma-gig for mixing pastry dough I began.
Her thing-a-ma-gig had a wooden handle with half moon wires attached to it. When you turned the bowl with the flour and the Crisco using the devise in and up and down, side to side motion it became crumbly and just perfect for the next step in the baking of my wonderful Blackberry Pie. That is of course if you know what your doing.  Little Crisco lots of flour, not working it’s not crumbling so in goes a little more Crisco and finally after what appears to be ¾ cup of Crisco and two cups of flour it’s crumbly just like Grandma’s.
Don’t forget the salt, I remembered. How much I wonder, not knowing I just sprinkle what looks to me like ¼ teaspoon of salt and dusting my hands over the crumbly flour mixture and with one more toss with the thing-a-ma-gig the salt distributed itself.

Some say salt is the spice of life. I say happiness is.
Into the ice box I go for the water. It’s cold now icy cold because I’ve had it in the little freezer compartment. I skim off the thin layer of ice that has accumulated on top and with a fork to use for blending the dough together. I made a well in the middle of the bowl of my crumbled up mixture and began dumping that icy cold water in.
Slowly at first, I begin to add the water to the middle. Making a circle by turning the bowl as I use the fork to mix in the crumbly flour mixture I see it coming together, little more water maybe that’s what it needs to bind the extra flour mixture. When I am finished I consider that I have put in around 2/3rd cup of water maybe a little more or a little less, after all it’s the size of the bowl.
Taking my little hands I gave the dough a bit of a kneading before separating the dough in half and forming the dough into two softball size pieces.
Back to my grandmothers Hoosier cabinet I go with another one of her bowls. This time a smaller one cranking away for more silky dusty home ground floor.
Now I have two bowls on my grandmother’s old wood kitchen tabletop. I begin to sprinkle flour all around the open space of her tabletop as though I’m about to make a masterpiece to be hung in a museum far way in some big city like New York or Boston.
My grandmother’s kitchen table was made of plank boards pressed together as close as possible held up by four strong oak legs that were hand hewed. You could still see where the wood left plain in shape, large, tongue and grooved on the top, narrow at the bottom of the legs allowing the table to sit sturdy all held together with wooden pegs there it stood sturdy on the kitchen floor. It was a good table and held many generations of memories of women and their baking and sitting around it for family meals. So many at times we had to eat in shifts as in those days one did not take food and wander around the house wherever they pleased like today. Family meals were just that; family sitting at the table in old oak chairs filling the air with conversation, enlightenment, news, fun and yes squabbles.
When I took her rolling pen out of the center drawer, it seemed for me her magnificent and magic table. I dusted it with flour. It being such an old table a small dusting of flour from the little bowl onto the rolling pen danced like snowflakes between the cracks of two old boards loosened just a tad from generations of use causing a whitening of the floor beneath it.
It was my grandmothers table now but one day it would be mine. Those were my thoughts when I was a child of eight. I would fill another generation of memories for this fabulous old piece of wood and hold for safekeeping to be passed on again, again, forever until the end of time. It had been her mothers and her mother’s before that all the way back to the beginning when the country was new and out of the wilderness came the first brave settlers bringing new life to a new land. This land we call home our America.
I begin to roll the floured rolling pen across the flattened ball of dough. I had seen my grandmother give her rolling pen a few turns across the dough then pick it up turn it over to its other side and repeat the process. Sprinkling flour and rolling away until she had a circle made of dough.
Wow, I had done it, but it’s not blackberry pie yet. My excitement grew like that of a new baby kitten the first time she discovers a warm bowl of milk under the kitchen table just for her.

I fold back the dough and lift it ever so softly into my Grandmothers pie pan. My anticipation is growing now and quickly I retrieve another bowl and dump in all the blackberries I had picked.
Oh my I need another bowl, a smaller one this time for the sugar. Oh my yes sugar I’ve never seen my Grandmother bake a pie without lots of sugar. What’s lot’s of sugar, I wonder? Pulling out every bowl she owned, finally I look at my Grandmothers bowls and pick one just the right size or at least I hope it’s the right size. To the brim with sugar it goes until you can’t tell where the bowl ends and the sugar begins.
Oh how I wish Grandma would finish her nap and wake up I need some advice. What kind of spice would a blackberry pie want? She would know.

Take heed you might want to ask those that know before they are gone.
Alone in the kitchen I find a jar of nutmeg and take a good sniff. It seems delightful to me. Next to it is a box of tapioca pudding granules. I love tapioca pudding and begin reading the box, for heaven sakes you can put tapioca pudding in berry pie to thicken the juices from the berries it says. The box says two tablespoons for pudding and ¼ cup for pies. It also says that is for a quart of berries.
Well now here we have a dilemma, I picked the berries, dumped them into the big bowl poured the  bowl filled with the sugar on top so there is no way to measure the berries now. Not to worry this is going to be a wonderful pie so I open my palm and dump out enough nutmeg to make around a teaspoon full. I dust my hands over the berries and sugar and give them a look- see, so far so good.
Now let’s try to figure out this tapioca thing. If I were going to be a big plumb blackberry pie how much tapioca would I want in me?
Then like a bolt of lightning followed by a huge clap of thunder on a hot summer’s day it hits me. It’s not the pie it’s the size of the bowl!
Opening the box of tapioca, I sprinkle away until the good Lord pulls my hand aside and tells me that’s enough of that thank you very much. Not thinking to use a spoon and because things have begun to slow down considerably trying to figure out how much of this and how much of that I just use my hands to mix the wonderful black berries, sugar, nutmeg and tapioca together. When the blackberries are mixed and my hands are a beautiful color of purple I lift up the bowl and dump it all into the dough covered big pie pan.
Quickly I roll out the top cover of the dough for the pie and place it on top. Round and round I go with my grandmothers cutting shears. I cut off the excess dough hanging off the pie pan. Using my little silver baby spoon  once used to feed me when I was little, I raise the dough up and around the edge of the dough rolled for the top of the pie. Gently I press down at the same time making a pretty little circle to seal in the pie dough to the pie pan so the excess juice couldn’t bubble up over my beautiful pie crust and ruin what looks to me like the most beautiful pie I had ever seen.
It was about this time my Grandmother wakes from her nap and magically appears in the kitchen. “Oh my, what a beautiful pie and what a big mess you have made of my kitchen Little One, as she begins to giggle.” I look around and she is right there is flour everywhere. On the floor, on the table, in my hair I’ve got purple cheeks from covering my face with my hands trying to figure out what goes next with what to make this grandeur of a pie.
Grandmother’s don’t get mad, they don’t fuss they just love you no matter what. A good grandmother loves you as Jesus loves you, unconditional love. If you don’t get a good one and end up with a grumpy grandmother my advice is to go borrow someone else s nicer one. A loving Grandmother is a lot like God. She will make room for all who knock upon her door, remember that and take time to stay in touch with her as much as possible. She’s always there for you never waiving in that love, they love you no matter what and will teach you if you will only open your eyes and listen. Grandmothers don’t make deals and trades or force you for favors you don’t want to give. They don’t give you things and take them away after making promises. Grandmother’s always keep their promises unless they die of course then they just didn’t get to stay around long enough that’s all.
“I guess you should take that fork of yours and put a few pricks in the top of the crust so the air can escape so that pie of yours doesn’t explode when you put it in the oven to bake, she tells me with a big wide smile on her face.” I know she is bamboozling with me. Those pricks in the dough are to let the air escape so the pie won’t overflow and drip all down in the oven making a big ole mess to clean up later.Baked and done she says to me, “It looks wonderful to me Sweetie but let’s us give your granddad the first piece okay. Then we’ll know if we have a winner or a do over.” “What’s a do over Grandma?”
“Well, that’s a question for your Granddad to answer. If he likes it great, if he doesn’t it’s out to the berry patch and I’ll talk you through the making of another berry pie. A do over in life dear is when you fall down or fail at something. Get up, start over, no matter how many times it takes. Lot’s of folks quit. Don’t do that. Get up, get going, learn better to do better.”
I remember thinking at the time all this for a little ole Blackberry Pie.
Shuffling across the flour covered kitchen floor in my bare feet my lovely Grandmother opens the oven door and into it I place my prized berry pie. Closing the door I ask her how long should it bake? We’ll bake it until the crust is a golden brown she tells me.
It is at that very moment, I knew I would become a grown woman all to quickly with my own kitchen, somehow in that tiny speck of time it became clear to me to savor each moment as if it were my last. I too would learn about the living and learning the lessons of life guided by the ‘Size of the Bowl’. My grandmother taught me the right and wrong of life in her small cozy kitchen.

Know this, a time will come for us all just as it did for my lovely grandmother when our hair is gray and hearts gentled by life with wisdom we will pass on to another generation to cook and learn about the lessons of life by the ‘Size of the Bowl’.  Seek out the ones who already know these things, listen, learn and incorporate their knowledge into your own new life as you begin your journey.
Was my pie a do over?  Yes and no because like life I have lived by the ‘Size of the Bowl’.
If you stayed with me in this story this long you deserve to know how to make the best Blackberry pie ever made by an eight year old. I’m still making the crust just as I did back then. It’s never failed me.
First things first put 2/3rds cup of water in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator and turn your oven on to 400 degrees to pre-heat.
Let’s do the Blackberry filling first:

Place your sifter over a bowl and place into it 1 cup of sugar
5 tbsp. Flour, ½ tsp. Cinnamon, sift together.

In another bowl add 4 overflowing cups of rich ripe delightful Blackberries combine with the above ingredients mixing gently but well and set aside.

Now to the good stuff:
NEVER FAIL PIE CRUST
Place into your sifter 2 cups of flour, ¼ teaspoon salt and sift into your bowl. Crappers if your really new at this make sure your flour sifter is in your bowl before you add the above ingredients.
Add ¾ cup of Crisco mixing together until crumbly. (just a little tip here Clara Darling, if you take your measuring cup rinse it with water and put it in the freezer the same time as your water, well let’s just say it’s magic because when you measure out your Crisco into your now frozen measuring cup it will not stick and slide out like a dream)
Make a well in the middle of the bowl, remove the cold (very cold) water from the freezer and gradually add to the flour mixture with a fork moving the bowl slowly until you see the flour mixture turn into a ball. (Or you can do like I do and just dump it all in.) After all what’s the worse that can happen, you’ll just need to add a little more flour.
Now give it a little kneading right there in the bowl and divide it into half.
Flour and dust your rolling surface to include your rolling pen. Place one/half of the dough on the surface and put a small dusting of flour on top. Roll away up and down right to left. Your dough will be very pliable and easy to turn over for additional shaping.
Place first layer of dough in a good hardy pie pan, fire keeled if you have one if not use what ever one you have. I just find the crust on the bottom bakes much better using a good pie pan that’s all.
Roll out your top crust and turn down in half on your rolling surface making it easy to lift up and place on top of your pie pan and fold back to cover your pie filling.
Place your bowl of Blackberry mixture into the bottom crust of your pie pan and place 1 and 1/3rd tbsp. in pats of Butter on top scattered around the top of the Blackberries in the pie pan.
Cover with the top crust. We are almost done now.
Take a pair of shears and cut any long lengths leaving enough of the bottom crust to fold over and into the top crust. Once this is done bring the bottom rim of the crust over and onto the top and crimp making even indentations with your fingers or whatever method you prefer. I still use the baby spoon method it works for me.
Don’t forget to make two slits on the top of the crust for the air to escape and the pie to bubble up. I like making the sign of the cross but you can make a smiley face or whatever suits your fancy.
Place in the oven on a cookie sheet or pizza pan doesn’t really matter. This will catch any juice that might run out of the rim of your pie and save you from that extra job of oven cleaning later on.
Bake for 1 hour and you’ve got yourself a yummy home made no additive honest to goodness pie. Enjoy!! Thanks for going back and forth in time with me today it’s been a blast.

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