Sunday, October 26, 2014

How (Not To) Make An Apple Pie and Burn Your House Down

My daughter recently had her first kindergarten field trip to a local apple orchard. It rained hard all day long, but that didn't seem to dampen her enthusiasm.  She proudly brought back a bag full of apples that she'd picked, and in a moment of Betty Crocker-ness, I suggested we bake an apple pie.  I'd just checked out the book How To Make An Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman from the library, and coincidentally, it has an apple pie recipe in the back of the book.

It's a wonderful book, with images of gathering semolina wheat from Italy, finding fresh eggs in France, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, and sugar cane from Jamaica. It would make a really interesting Google Lit Trip.  And I thought the recipe in the back was going to be easy...but I was in for a surprise.

The recipe calls for a whole lot of butter, 1 cup for the crust and 2 tablespoons for the filling. I'm no pie expert--I have avoided pie-making since the time I made a blueberry pie as a newlywed and it took me an entire day. (I'm still waiting to get those 9 hours of my life back, Joy Of Cooking.) Who am I to judge when it comes to butter? I followed the recipe. But when the pie went into the oven, it didn't take long for butter to start dripping out of the pan, creating a pool of oil on the bottom of the stove. It smelled delicious, though, and other than the butter mess, it turned out to be a pretty tasty pie. I made a mental note to clean the butter spill out of the oven once it cooled down...but I forgot about it.

The next day, right around dinnertime, I turned on the oven to bake some chicken. I started smelling something burning, and suddenly the memory of the butter ooze came rushing back.  I opened up the oven door and saw flames inside. And I knew that you aren't supposed to put water on a grease fire...but I couldn't remember what, exactly, you were supposed to throw on it.  I briefly contemplated calling 911 to ask, but that seemed a little silly. I almost Googled it, but the fire seemed to be growing rather than shrinking, so I wasn't sure that I had time for that. I took a deep breath, opened up the oven door, threw a little bit of water on the fire and slammed the door shut. There was a poof, lots of smoke....and the fire was gone.  (So technically, yes, you can put water on a grease fire. I've since learned that baking soda is a better choice.)

We ended up having peanut butter sandwiches for dinner that night, and I made sure to clean out the oven after that fiasco. Amelia told me that she's writing a story about the fire in Writer's Workshop at school, which I can't wait to read--I'm sure her perspective on the whole thing will be interesting. She's started asking me whenever I cook, "Mom, is something on fire? Are you being careful?"

I'll add this incident to my long list of failures in the kitchen.  It will be in good company with the jell-o that didn't gel and the pot of chili that I accidentally cooked with nutmeg instead of chili spice.

If you're feeling adventurous and apple pie isn't really your thing, there's also How To Make A Cherry Pie and See the USA. It, too, comes with an accompanying recipe--but I don't think I'll be trying it anytime soon.


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