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July 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

During my first attempt to make a pie crust, I slammed the ball of dough on the kitchen floor like a tennis player who lost the match. I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and somewhere along the lines she wrote I became convinced that a happy home had pie. If I couldn’t master the crust, would I ever find happiness?

Throughout the years others have tried to teach me how easy it is — add ice water only to the dough; vinegar is the secret ingredient to great flakes; beat an egg yolk into the water; don’t over-knead; don’t under-knead; use a wooden rolling pin; stick your tongue out just a little to the left and it will all be okay. I’ve savored the crust of others, but never accomplished the task.

My fillings are divine, and I have a talent for spicing anything. Even when I omit the sugar, something Laura once wrote about doing, my balance of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger hold up. But that blasted crust; I just can’t get it right. I began cheating, buying refrigerator crusts, but even those substitutes can fall apart.

Does a home truly need pie?

Odd thing is, I prefer cake, and I make a marvelous yellow cake with deep dark chocolate frosting. But there’s something about pies. America is baseball and apple pies; Norman Rockwell captured Americana by painting pies from the oven. And Laura, well my beloved heroine of the frontier pioneers, mentions pie in nearly every book she penned.

Every time we moved when our kids were little, the first thing I’d think is that the kitchen needs a pie. Think of the wafting aroma of baked apples and buttery crust. The heat it gives off as it cool on the windowsill. Home is where the pie is. But there is not going to be a new home. The Calumet house fell through the cracks of miscommunication. The chickens are safe from becoming my first Michigan pie.

It’s disappointing to report, especially after the shared excitement and celebration last week, but it was not to be. When we accepted the rental offer, I told the landlords we’d discuss the matter with our kids and give them a move-in date. I asked for the full cost and was quoted first month, last and a deposit.

It was going to be tight. In fact, I burst into tears at JC Penny after realizing I couldn’t even buy the bargains. I realized the rental would strap us in a way, I couldn’t see how we’d make it work. We could afford the place month to month; we couldn’t afford to get in and buy the things we needed — like a pie pan or pants.

All our stuff remains in Sandpoint in storage and we have no plan to retrieve it this far. We simply keep paying on the storage. Because I earn an income as a writer, we don’t qualify for homeless veteran programs. I mean seriously, who works while homeless? I’ll tell you it’s extraordinarily difficult even with a flexible job like writing. That was the whole point of stabilizing. So when the landlord expressed disappointment that we wouldn’t move in until August 1, and tried to pressure us into paying for July to keep the rental, we passed.

As much as I’m craving pie, I’m also relieved.

We don’t want to be a fixture in our daughter’s home, languishing in her space, but they have kindly offered us the time we need to find the right place, save up money and figure out how to retrieve our belongings. In saying no, I felt empowered. So did the Hub. We’ve had to make so many hasty decisions or be at the mercy of transmission shops and VA gatekeepers this past year, that it felt good to make a decision to not be pressured too soon.

Like a kitchen with pie, it feels right to take small steps to stabilize. Already, Todd has had multiple VA appointments and slowly that wheel is turning again. His CBT intake begins today, something we’ve pushed to do for years and finally are receiving. Lots of personal goals are back on the table after being shelved, and I might find office space locally. We are still establishing roots in this marvelous community.

I know it’s a good place because the cultural heritage here is a lunch pie in the hand — pasties. It’s a heated debate as to whether or not the meat pies are of Finnish or Cornish origin, but I know the best pies in town come from a Fin family. I can imagine how miner’s wives once swapped recipes in their kitchens long ago, passing down assimilated foods for their descendants. My latest obsession is to look forward to a pasty on the beach before combing for agates.

Laura Ingalls Wilder has something to say about pie that reminds me about how I feel when writers gather around the table here to partake in the weekly meal, share their talents and hopes, express their ideas and encourage each other in writing:

“Ma said nothing, but a little flush came up her cheeks and her eyes kept on smiling while they ate that delicious pie.”

My pie crusts in the kitchen aren’t much, but my challenges are like a crust by which to frame the filling you all bring. So on that note, let us dig into pies.

July 20, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a pie. You can make it any kind of pie, focus on filling or crust, or tell us about the pie-maker. How does pie set a tone in a story? Does it warm the hearth or bring disappointment?

Respond by July 25, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published July 26). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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A Ruined Pasty (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls

Danni settled into the sand of Sioux Beach, burying her heals in warmth. A crowd of locals splashed in the bay off to her left, leaving this bit of solitude near the sloshing waves. She unwrapped her Bayfield Pies pasty from thick paper. It warmed her fingertips, and her first bite of crust filled with thin slices of carrots, potatoes and beef made her toes wiggle.

“Mmm…” Danni’s eyes closed while she chewed.

A shadow crossed her face and Danni opened one eye. Michael Robineaux. Ike’s best friend. He hated her, and he made her pie taste like sand.

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