Deconstructed cranberry apple pie


I had just one job for Thanksgiving, and that was to make the pie, my apple cranberry pie. Coincidentally, we had a white Thanksgiving in the northeastern United States, and the snow along with the baking brought me back to my short time with you. For our first date we met right after a snow storm at the lovely French cafe in town. As I walked into the cafe on that fateful January Sunday nearly 4 years ago, I noticed that you already ordered croissants for us, and I believe you also had my Earl Grey tea ready for me. At first the quick-to-jump-to-conclusions-feminist in me was a teeny bit annoyed, but then I quickly realized it was just your way of being thoughtful.

The night before Thanksgiving I had planned on prepping the pie crust, and making the cranberry jam that makes up the bottom layer of the pie. But the snow outside my window just kept bringing me back to that first walk we took in the park right after we finished breakfast at the French cafe. I wish I could recall the conversation. What I do remember is that this was the first time you took my hand in yours, and my heart just sailed with our gloved hands hanging on to each other as we circled the snowed in park. I could sense you were nervous with the way you would glance at me sideways, which made me like you even more. Usually on a date I’m the one who is the most nervous. It was a nice switch.

I glance at the clock, realize it is nearly midnight, and I’ve not made the cranberry jam, nor have I started the dough for the pie crust. I decide that I need to do something before I go to bed, and the cranberry jam is easy enough to make. How hard can it be? It’s just cranberries, sugar, orange juice, water and salt. But the cranberry jam purplish red hue reminds me of the Valentine’s Day we spent together cooking and baking. We made my favorite red velvet cake recipe. I wish I could ask you if my memory is correct in recalling that we also made a key lime chiffon pie as well. One dessert per person? We were indulgent, weren’t we …

I fall asleep on the couch in this state of remembering that will not quit. I wake up the next day in a pained fog when I realize that the memories are a dream, and the reality of our ending is lived every day in our separate lives.

Eventually I drag myself into the kitchen to mix the pie crust dough. As I separate the dough into two halves with my hands I close my eyes and remember how you would take one hand and rub the back of my head. You would do this to tell me you loved me, and you would also do it as a way to reassure me when I’m feeling anxious. Sometimes when I miss you too much I put my own hand on top of my head the way you used to place yours on mine.

The real slog in making this pie is peeling, coring and slicing all 7 apples. The big heaping glass bowl of apple slices with cinnamon, sugar and cornstarch is stirred over a pot of simmering water. I taste the apples, and realize that they could use more spice, perhaps some cardamom or allspice. If we were making this pie together you would likely advocate for more spice, and the ardent rule follower that I tend to be would argue for leaving the pie as it is since I get nervous veering off a recipe. You would be right, the apples could use more spice, and because of that fact the apples will remain as they are.

At last the pie is ready to go. I get in the car, and look in the rearview mirror as I back out of my parking space. For just a moment I see you in the rearview mirror the way you used to watch me drive off after our weekends together. You would stand there and watch me drive away, and I would see you eventually turn into a mere speck in the rearview mirror. Just for today you will remain a speck in my rearview mirror.

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