Last week was Pie Week, I learned on National Public Radio. Why Pie Week in the U.S. is in July, I have no idea – I didn’t catch that on NPR.
The British celebrated Pie Week March 5-11 this year, which at least is closer to Pi Day (March 14). No, that’s not a typo – Pi Day is 3.14, after the mathematical constant needed to measure the area of a circle.
My research indicated that Pi Approximation Day is held on July 22 (or 22/7 in day/month date format), because the fraction 22⁄7 is a common approximation of pi. But that still doesn’t explain why Pie Week in the U.S. was the first week in July.
I’d never heard about Pie Week before last week. But like any good American, I have my experiences with pie.
I’ve mentioned that my thirty-fifth wedding anniversary with my husband is later this year. Well, my first trip to Missouri was thirty-five years ago this summer – in June 1977, to be precise. My in-laws-to-be picked my fiancé and me up at the Kansas City airport, and drove us to their home in Marshall, Missouri, ninety miles away, where I was to spend a long weekend.
Marshall is a small town, and there isn’t a lot to do. I watched Al chop up a tree stump for his mother one day. He looked heroic and manly, but his chopping didn’t even take a full day.
The next day, Al proposed a trip to Fort Osage, Missouri, one of the sites along the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark stopped on their journey in 1804 to search for a water path to the Pacific Ocean.
William Clark was back at the location in 1808 to establish Fort Osage to guard the new Missouri Territory and to protect the American trade house at the fort. But the Army abandoned the fort and its trade house in 1827.nd Clark stopped in 1804 on their search for a water passage to the Pacific Ocean.
In 1941, Jackson County began reconstructing the fort, and Fort Osage was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
Our visit to the historic site was interesting, but it was a hot summer day, and I was not used to the humidity of the Midwest. After we toured the fort, we stopped at a small café nearby for a cold drink.
The café had gooseberries for sale. “Gooseberries!” Al said. “You and Mom can make a gooseberry pie. It’ll be a good bonding experience.”
“I’ve never heard of gooseberries,” I said. “Unless they were in one of the ‘Little House’ books. I don’t know how to make a gooseberry pie.”
“You’ve made other pies, haven’t you?”
“Well, a few,” I said. I wasn’t sure I wanted to bond with my future mother-in-law over gooseberry pie, and I didn’t want to let Al know how non-culinary I was. “But not gooseberry.”
“Mom will have a recipe,” he said, as if that would solve everything. Al is a firm believer in recipes. He bought the gooseberries, and we took them back to Marshall.
Al’s mother stared at the box of berries when we returned. “I’ve never made gooseberry pie,” she said. She sounded doubtful.
“I’ve had gooseberry pie,” Al’s father said. “It’s good. But use a lot of sugar.”
I peered into the cardboard box of gooseberries. “Do you take the seeds out?” I asked. I wanted to do it right. But I had no idea what to do with the bright green berries.
“I don’t know,” Al’s mother replied. She found a recipe in a tattered old cookbook. “The recipe doesn’t say anything about the seeds.”
I started taking the seeds out, like I had done with fresh pie cherries for my mother, but soon gave it up. The seeds were tiny and plentiful. Al ate a raw gooseberry and said the seeds weren’t a problem. “But use a lot of sugar,” he said. “They’re tart.”
Al’s mother and I made the syrup, following the recipe, and cooked the gooseberries till they were soft. “Still seems sour,” I said, licking my finger after sticking it in the hot pie filling.
“We followed the recipe,” his mother said. “But we can add more sugar.” So we did. We added sugar until we were afraid the mixture would burn on the stove.
While the pie filling thickened, we made the crust, then poured the gooseberry mixture into the pie shell. Then we baked the pie. It looked beautiful.
That evening we served the pie. That’s when we learned you cannot use too much sugar in gooseberry pie.
“Did you use a lot of sugar?” Al’s dad asked, taking a large gulp of iced tea.
“Yes,” I said. “Even more than the recipe called for.”
“Well, it needs more,” he replied.
“I think it’s fine,” Al said, a loyal fiancé.
Thirty-five years later, Al still likes gooseberry pie. But now he makes his own.