Even the Pies Are Branded, or How Four and Twenty Blackbirds Gets Us Invited to Dinner

I grew up in an area where there are some amazing cooks, the kind of place where it is well worth the effort to snag one of those old church cookbooks with recipes donated by different women in the valley. You’ll undoubtedly find new ways to use cream of mushroom soup, casseroles, and slow-cooker recipes, but you’ll also find some truly ingenious and tasty meals. It’s always a good idea to attend potlucks and picnics, which can wind up as a showcase for some of those same recipes. Best of all, some of those same women are kind enough to drop some of these delectable treasures by the vet clinic. Oh happy day when you find ginger spice cookies or rhubarb pies in the break room. (Helpful tip: Get on Melissa’s good side by saving some of those ginger cookies back as they’re her favorite!) This is really just a long way of explaining how it is that I came to making pies and then carving my family’s brand into the top crust. Since it’s hard to tell who made what pie without looking for the baked-on masking tape label stuck to the bottom of the pie plate, many women carve their ranch’s brand into the top pie crust.

For Oscar’s birthday, our friend Bobbi got us a pie carrier. Oscar actually received the pie carrier, but Bobbi had my name monogrammed on it. We all got a good laugh out of it, but I noticed that Oscar made certain that I noticed said pie carrier was empty and he preferred that it be full. He wasn’t even subtle about it, but then again, Oscar is seldom subtle about anything, but this applies double when it comes to pie.

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Oscar, Who Makes This Look Good

Then I struck pay dirt: the Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book. I got Oscar and me a copy for Christmas and spent a happy evening reading through it. Oscar spent many happy evenings fantasizing about pies that would be coming his way. Now I just needed a festive excuse to make one of these pies. Cue Ron and Amanda and their three dogs: Lodi, Rowdy, and Maple. The canine members of the household needed some new playmates, and that is where Eleanor and Beatrice come in. Plus, it was just the excuse I needed to break out that new pie book

I’ve been a domestic terror last night and this morning, tackling laundry, ironing (no jabs about my ironing fetish, please), getting those pies made. I decided to go with a strawberry balsamic pie and a blushing apple pie, the latter of which involved adding half of a roasted beet. Confession: I have never roasted beets. I have never purposely tasted beets, automatically classifying them amongst those vegetables that must be “icky.” Mum tells a story about a toddler, hellion version of me that wailed and screamed and threw things when she’d try to feed me beets. She gave up and went to remove all things beet from her person in the shower while leaving me to cry it out. Fast-forward to now, where I think I might be in love with beets. I roasted one in the toaster oven while slicing apples, and while the smell didn’t do much for me either way, the color most certainly did. It’s a lovely clear ruby-pomegranate-vermillion that stained my fingers, oven mitts, and dishtowels, but that is a small price to pay for beauty.

This is the end result. The strawberry-balsamic pie with the lattice crust is on the left, and the blushing apple pie is on the right. True, the bottoms of both pie plates are gooey from juices that have burbled through the vents, but they smell heavenly. The crust is golden, the brand is perfect, and it’s taking everything in Eleanor and Beatrice’s tiny reservoir of good behavior to leave those pies alone. Yes, I have done well. These are the sorts of pies the ensure future dinner invitations. Which is good, because after making pies, I certainly didn’t feel like making dinner, too.

It looks like I better read a few more recipes. That sound you hear is Oscar, wailing and gnashing his teeth that neither pie made its way to him. Good thing I spotted a recipe for a salted caramel apple pie in that book.

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