There’s No Recipe for Success (or is there?) – Life Lessons from Holiday Pie Making with Mim

In addition to my love of writing, I love to cook.

Most of the time, I focus on the savory…and leave baking to the professionals like my mother (whose cookies/brownies are second to none).  However, on certain occasions (like Christmas), I bake pies.  Apple pie is my specialty I suppose and it’s also my favorite to eat.

Though I make the filling ‘from scratch,’ I usually rely on a packaged/pre-made crust.  While the crust is easy to make (or simply unroll) and is consistently tasty and flaky, like any good pie crust should be…I’ve always envied the ‘from scratch’ crusts that Mim prepares every year at Christmas.

Lard Pie Crust-3

Thanks to abyssalmissile for the photo!

Note:  ‘Mim’ isn’t a ‘Mom’ typo in this blog post.  Mim is my grandmother and is short for Mimere, a name which is a nod to her French Canadian roots.

Mim makes pie crust the old-fashioned way, from scratch, with little more than flour, water, shortening and salt…and the results are always outstanding!

We were fortunate enough to have Mim join us again for Christmas this year, so I took advantage of the time together to observe her in her element, making crusts for our holiday pies, to see what I could learn.

Hint:  I learned a lot more than just how to make a great pie crust…

There’s No Recipe for Success

Mim doesn’t use a recipe to make her pie crust, she doesn’t need one.  Instead, she relies on how the dough looks and feels at any given time in the process.  As a relatively novice home cook, I find this to be amazing.  I’m a very detail-oriented person who values clear directions, instructions and plans…so for me, working without a recipe is very difficult.

How can you ensure a great, consistent result if the process isn’t the same each time?

Trust Your Instinct and Experience

With 75+ years of pie-making experience, Mim doesn’t need a recipe anymore.  The process is pretty much second nature at this point, so instead of following a recipe, she makes the crust by look and feel.  While the inputs and process might change a bit each time, the quality of the output never does!

In fact, I learned that since conditions change (e.g., temperature, humidity, etc.), if Mim did follow the same recipe each time, the quality of the end product would likely suffer.

Mim has long known something that I very much need to learn…

Be Adaptable, Flexible and Open to Change

So what if the dough looks too sticky?  Add flour and knead it some more!

So what if the dough is too dry?  Add some more water!

I like the structure that a recipe provides because it enables me to work through a clear set of steps along the way.  While I tried to capture a ‘recipe’ for Mim’s pie crust this Christmas, I failed…and she regularly reminded me that a recipe wouldn’t do me any good…because it changes every time!

Don’t Rush

Because I can be a bit impatient from time to time, I want the ability to readily make Mim’s pie crust now…fast forwarding through the small part of the story where 75+ years of practice is required!

With that, of all that I learned from Mim that day, the biggest lesson for me was, don’t rush.  Don’t just focus on the end result, enjoy the process and recognize that no matter how good the recipe, there are no substitutes for the most important ingredients…patience, practice and love.

Thanks Mim for being a living lesson for me this Christmas!

Love,

Geoff

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