Heather Hall

How to Make a Pie

First is a narrowing, an elimination of other possibilities and what they might bring. You markedly circle your fruit, something ripe and enthusiastic but will nevertheless boil down when cooking, resembling an altogether different medium from when you started.

You will prepare as best you can; cookbooks, online recipes with the most yellow stars attached to them, and feel a burgeoning confidence that you can start again, construct a solid existing object that you can’t easily break. Then the cult of crust is presented. You must choose if you will spend your day amid yeast and flour, committing to the foundation of the entire structure itself, or if you will buy one, eyes downcast, because you have known all along that you don’t have a solid foundation to necessarily rest anything upon. 

You decide to commit. It starts as it should, a pale gob of aspiration, but then it needs more time, care, heat, an introspection into self that you weren’t quite ready for. It sits on the granite, first a sludge and now a weep, as you add more flour and then water, a panic that perhaps you have made something as stoic as crust cry. So you take the form between your adult hands and start kneading, trying to resurrect whatever previous joy you felt earlier for it.  Nothing. Just a bloated figure popped into the fridge to be accounted for later.

The fruit is going much better, to your relief, the saccharin exterior that remains visible. You decide this is where you’ll spend your time, making sure it appears good although it’s clearly upset.  You continue stirring, the emotive sheen of cherries now bubbling, sobbing, turning a tender garnet you’ve now somehow shouldered. You turn it down to a simmer, a small whimper that is still audible no matter how tight the lid is on. Your house smells like sugar, burnt fruit, a memory, of how it all started, and it punctures the dread of how you now feel for the pie. You stand stooped at the oven, eyes to God, rolled somewhere in that mighty direction, asking for the Holy vent to take you back, to when the cherries seemed infinite.

You must now confront what is not quite crust. You roll it into a comical circle as it shakes it’s dying head. You drape in into the pie pan, making gentle notations into it with a fork, small apologies, haikus. The mixture submerges it, obfuscates the crusts disappointment.

Into the oven, all this misery.

You keep peering at the wreck from the small window, expecting an explosion or an implosion, but everything is as it should be. The timer goes off.  The pie comes out.

It’s browned on the top as promised. The cherries have never been sweeter. The crust never more dexterous. A disorientation settles into your body as everyone gathers to eat it, as you watch the pie disappear incrementally, and all that is left is you, soaking a pie pan with a view of your neighbor, who has just started making her own pie.

Heather Hall went to Pratt Institute and The Art Institute of Chicago. She publishes in various anthologies and makes video essays for Northwestern.