Saturday, September 18, 2010

Life and Pie

It occurs to me that we aspire to mountain tops but when we attain them—if we attain them at all, we only get to stay a short while. Life is lived in the valleys. One of the reasons I take care with food is that, while I rarely reach a summit, I can have good meals daily, which brings me to pie.

Any time is a good time for pie, but especially fall. Ode poor Keats! Victim of every writer’s dream: to write something that becomes so widely familiar it’s a cliché: thanks to him autumn is notoriously a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. We don’t get much mist in autumn in southern Ontario, except the lovely grey bloom on plums. You get plums as early as June, but my favourite are the little Italian plums that arrive about now. Every fall, usually more than once, I make Rose Levy Beranbaum’s flame tart, (see the smaller illustration).

This year I have also made plum pear jam and was so surprised and pleased with combination, I decided to try it as a pie filling. I pitted and chopped about four cups of plums, and peeled, cored and chopped three or four pears. I tossed them in a colander with a bit more than half a cup of sugar, some cinnamon and nutmeg. I left the colander over a bowl and tossed the fruit occasionally over about two hours. I transferred the juices from the fruit to a small saucepan and reduced them by half, then blended in a couple teaspoons of cornstarch. The fruit went into a nine inch pie pan lined with pastry and the reduced juice over that, put the top on and bake for 45 minutes at 350. I haven’t got a name for it yet, Plear Pie?

Summits and valleys . . .There’s a line in the Dire Straits song On Every Street that always makes me smile, “Every victory has a taste that’s bittersweet.” Happily this is not the case with Plear Pie.

Great Gossip
I have mentioned Diana Athill here before. She is someone who impresses with her fairness, candour, and humanity. The first half of her memoir Stet, an editor’s life gives an insider’s perspective on the gamble that is publishing. The second half is a collection of portraits of the some of the writers who became her friend including V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Mordecai Richler and Brian Moore.

I confess it is the second half that beguiled me. Who could fail to be charmed by this description of Brian Moore and his first wife, Jackie, “They were both great gossips—and when I say great I mean great, because I am talking about gossip in its highest and purest form: a passionate interest, lit by humour but above malice, in human behaviour.”

Isn’t that where most great books begin?