The conversation I had with my pie crust this morning was one that I will not soon forget. I’ve been working on perfecting my crust for a couple months now. It’s a very exciting process. I love to take the food surplus I have around the house and make it into a pie. Not that I love making pie crust, please don’t misunderstand, but I definitely like eating pie, and I’d certainly like to enjoy the crust creation part more. This morning the process was even more juicy than usual. Sometime well before I began rolling the dough, it occurred to me that what the crust really wants is to have a lightly floured surface underneath. If it’s not smooth and floury under there, it’s physically impossible for it to slide and grow to the shape and thickness I want. The cookbook gently reminds me, moreover, that this process cannot be rushed. It takes time. Going into the process this morning, I remembered the dough’s simple request. It was not unreasonable. The dough doesn’t request much; just one small thing so that we can both be happy. But besides being the dough’s request, it’s simple physics – nature’s law. Smooth surface, ease in expansion. Less friction, more movement.
Oh, and here’s the other thing: I’ve watched myself, making pies, as time goes along. I make a pie, then I make another, each time learning, adjusting, experimenting. Each time I make a pie, it’s a little different, but each time I learn a little something, and with each attempt I at least end up with a semi-edible pie, and my family is happy with me. But each time, there’s this place in the process where I’m grimacing and cursing under my breath, my entire body tense and full of uncertainty. It’s that part that I’d like to examine a little here, so indulge me. As a moderately conscious person, I am aware of the power of thought. I can accept that I have negative thoughts, and my goal is not to eliminate them, but to use them to heal and grow. If I do not bring these thoughts into conscious awareness, they continue to go unnoticed. Noticed or unnoticed, they have a tremendous impact on my life. Bringing awareness to my thoughts in a difficult moment, I am almost always surprised at what I hear. This morning, if I’d turned up the volume of this radio frequency, here’s what you would have heard: This is never gonna turn out. What did I do wrong? I’m not gonna be able to salvage this. I’m wasting my time. How is this stupid recipe supposed to work? This doesn’t make any sense. Why do I do this? This is not fun. Maybe I’m just crazy – a glutton for punishment. I suck.
I promise you, those were the words that fluttered through my mind along with feelings of angst, anxiety, dread, fear, uncertainty, doubt, annoyance, powerlessness, anger, blah!
What comes to mind as I’m lifting the crust off the counter with a spatula and pasting in pieces to cover the holes, is the way I flounder about when I’m not sure what it’s supposed to look like, and I haven’t yet had enough successes to feel confident that this thing is actually going to survive. So it’s at this point in time, somewhere just short of something completely acceptable – maybe even magnificent – where I’m floundering, believing the bad things I’m telling myself, even though I am well on the way to what I have been creating all along. This hump just happens to bring out the very most ungraceful parts me, and I thrash and curse and wail. Still, looking back, I have made it through this highly dramatic process a good number of times. Mental note to self: If I can just make it through this difficult part without giving in to all those thoughts and emotions, I arrive at a new level of beauty and accomplishment, somewhere in the vicinity of my goal. I will actually reach the place I was headed not so long ago when I set out with my recipe and my ingredients, and my idea.
Another thought occurred to me while I was making my pies this morning. What I need is to watch someone who’s already mastered this process, making pie. Just once or twice. How nice it would be at this stage of my pie-making development to see it done by somebody who’s really got it down. All my senses would be attuned at that moment when the water gets sprinkled in, and everything begins to congeal. I bet I would consciously or unconsciously pick up the information I needed to make a few very minor adjustments that would take some of the angst out of my process. Just knowing how it looks when someone else reaches this stage would bolster my confidence. A big part of what makes me thrash and curse is the vulnerability and hopelessness I feel in that moment when I’m really not so sure that I can pull it off. Maybe it’s the not having seen it done well by someone else that makes me feel so angry and frustrated. Maybe having such an opportunity to see it modeled by someone who has already learned would transform that dreadful stage of the process so that it is not so dreadful anymore.
Damn. That’s not just pies we’re talking now. That’s life. Maybe we didn’t have stuff modeled as we would have liked when we were young, and maybe we’re still mad about it. But we don’t have to stay mad. There are those around us who have the skills we want, the resources we need. I could even go buy a pie crust from the grocery store if I wanted, and I probably will, but not today. In mastering the skill of making pie, I get to enter a learning process as a child does, starting without skills or confidence, yet steadily approaching mastery with each attempt. I know that continued practice will eventually bring the experience and confidence I seek. And when I send out a request for help, I can get what I want and need. With this learning comes the grace and faith that those who are watching can benefit from. I’m still looking for someone who’s willing to let me watch her make a pie, but in the meantime, it’s coming to me, piece by buttery piece. The information and support I need are available all around me. And they come from the most unexpected places when I listen. Today my pie crust helped me understand what it needed, and it turned out to be the flakiest pie I’ve made yet.