Here’s the hard truth: I don’t like cherry pie. I do like pie itself, and I adore cherries, but hot cherries encased in crust defy the concept of summer, because when they’re wet and gooey like that, they’re very hard to eat out of your hand, the way you’re supposed to. If the logic followed, I would also dislike blueberry and blackberry pies, but neither is the case. The pop of hot blackberries makes me swoon, but warm cherries always seem too meek to be pleasurable. There’s just no snap to them, first of all; in a crust, if you want that good gooey fruit gel, the fruit, by nature, sags a little. Unless you use real tart pie cherries, which are both more difficult to find and priced more astronomically, the balance between sweet and tart just isn’t there. Not for me, at least. So while the rest of the country sits idly by, smug in their relationship to cherry pie (and by extension with their identity as Americans), I twiddle my fresh-picked cherry stems in my hands, and go pieless.
It’s a good thing, then, that pie is infinitely flexible. Last weekend, we trekked out to Curlew, WA for our (now) yearly weekend of fun and adventure. It’s essentially a potluck that lasts 3 days, so instead of bringing, say, some pork, one might bring an entire pig. One woman brought a savory tart unlike any I’d ever tried. It was made in a tart pan, but it had both a top and bottom crust. Inside, she’d tucked sautéed greens and onions, and there was something about raisins as well. I clearly don’t remember the particulars (to be honest, I didn’t taste it because I got distracted carving up a pig), except that the crust was made with eggs and olive oil, and that she said she picked the crust recipe – which browned extremely evenly – because it advertised complete forgiveness. (It was dairy-free, but she’d brushed the top with butter, for good measure.) I decided I’d love to be a human as forgiving as a good piecrust.
As we wound our way back through the state last night, more or less oblivious to the holiday after celebrating it, once again, at the Chesaw Rodeo, my friend’s nicely tanned little tart kept peeking back into my thoughts. I decided that if I could make an interesting, flavorful tart crust for this here pie party and fill it with cherries—but somehow differently, avoiding the soggy cherry problem—then I might change my mind about cherry pie. Chuffed, I plotted a cherry tart with an emmer flour and olive oil crust, and a blended cherry filling that had all the flavor of a good cherry pie but none of the textural issues. I’d pile fresh sliced cherries and whipped cream on top, and I’d get the snap of summer and whipped cream and that good, flaky crust all in one big fantasy cherry bite.
But today didn’t start the way I expected. Today started with a two-year-old with a 103-degree fever, and mountains of laundry, and snuggles, and tears, and real life where there might have been more time for cherry pie-ish things. I set aside lofty goals of productivity and decided my single task for the day was this tart. Sure, I had a sick kid – but I also had our nanny to myself for the day. She and I took turns stirring while the other doled out a fire hydrant’s worth of liquid hug, until somehow, part way through the day, a tart entered the oven. Chuffed, indeed.
Then it came out. It looked nice, I think. The crust was patted beautifully into place, and the filling – just the perfect amount, I might add – baked up beautifully. I let it cool with more patience than I characteristically have, and cut into it mid-afternoon, thinking I’d have the perfect snacking slice. But it wasn’t perfect. There wasn’t enough cherry to balance out the crust, and the emmer flavor overtook the cherry flavor, and dammit, people, I didn’t like the taste of the cherry filling, even though the texture was so much better.
I’m not sure what to say. I just wanted to make a pie today, a good version of cherry pie that would make me feel like an honest Washingtonian, and I failed. I don’t like cherry pie. I will never be anyone’s cherry pie. I don’t ever really want to make cherry pie again, and for some reason, this makes me feel incredibly guilty. I’m not always the Debbie Downer of the pie party, I promise – see, I’ve even texted my sister, who’s coming for dinner, and asked her to bring a pie, because I do like pie sometimes, I promise. Just not this one. Forgive me?
(The crust, though. You’ll see this crust again.)