Yesterday, Tropical Storm Hanna came ripping up the east coast, bringing rain and wind and causing us to remain indoors with NO SCHEDULED ACTIVITIES. This is a highly unusual occurrence for our family. If we’re not travelling, the kids have activities, and when they don’t, it’s the neverending struggle of them playing video games and us trying to limit their time and kick them outside. “Why, when I was your age, I used to just ride my bike around or entertain myself outside for HOURS ON END,” we spew, but our grousing falls on deaf ears.
When the weather’s bad and I have a whole free Saturday, I inevitably root through my pantry, wondering aloud what can I make, and yesterday was no exception. In the back of my pantry, I found a boxed “pie mix” that I purchased from a Pennsylvania Dutch market in Central PA last year. It was for “Shoo Fly Pie,” which is a single-crust pie with a filling made of molasses, sugar, flour, sugar, and finally, sugar. If you grew up in CenPenn, you know exactly what I’m talking about (and your mouth is probably watering at the thought), and you don’t think the name sounds funny. If you didn’t, you probably wonder why a pie’s name would include flies. It is said that the sweet ingredients attracted flies and the cook has to “shoo” them away while the pies are cooling. But trust me when I tell you that no self-respecting Pennsylvania Dutchwoman is going to whip out a box of pie mix to make one of these pies. Or any pie, for that matter.
Anyway, I bought this box of “pie mix,” knowing that my grandmothers were surely rolling over in their graves. Here’s what the box looked like:
See the happy Amish boy eating his pie? How could you not be excited about making a pie from this box of mix? It says “GOOD” right on the box! That’s why I bought it… and also, I bought it because I had never seen anything like it. Now, I have made plenty of pies, but never a shoo fly pie. I knew from reading recipes that it’s not terribly complicated – it’s a one-crust pie, so you throw a crust into the pie plate, add the filling, which has only a few ingredients, bake as directed, and voila.
However, this particular boxed mix assumed a LOT about its user, for it provides “three simple steps” in the baking directions. However, Step One is LOADED:
WTF? “…while you prepare the pastry”??? I opened the box and found only two things: A jar of molasses and a plastic bag of the “crumb” mix. Silly me! I was thinking that everything I needed in order to produce a pie would be in the box – Just Add Water! You know those boxed pie crust mixes you can get in the baking aisle of the grocery store, or even better, the pre-rolled ones in the refrigerated case? I thought one of those would be included. Or maybe I had pictured something like my favorite Chef BoyArDee Pizza Kit – everything you need, all on one box! (Even though they don’t give you enough cheese and you have to add cheese and pepperoni in order to make a semi-passable pizza.)
(Note – this is the polar opposite of the instructions to cook frozen ravioli that struck me as complete overkill, spelling out all the details including what kind of spoon to use in order to stir the ravioli. Interestingly, this is my number one post in terms of hits. Not sure what conclusions can be drawn – simply an observation.)
Where was I? Oh yes. I pulled out a recipe book and made a pie crust… followed the instructions, baked the pie, and guess what? It looks pretty much like grandmas’ shoo fly pie:
…but the crust was positively crispy, not at all flaky. I didn’t take my time and do it right, and I was punished. (Grandmothers rolling in graves… again.) But still, it was kind of a fun experiment and it tastes like shoo fly pie, so… mission accomplished.
But did I stop at pie on the stormy Saturday? Of course not, because – pie crust aside – I am my grandmothers’ granddaughter, and I whipped up a giant batch of chicken pot pie, Pennsylvania Dutch-style which if you are from CenPenn, you know that I do not mean a chicken-and-gravy affair encased in a pastry crust, but a chicken-based stew or soup that features freshly-made egg noodles. I found this recipe which is pretty close to how I make it. It is the ultimate comfort food, and I must say, this particular batch was fabulous, owing to the homemade chicken stock. We shared it with the neighbors last night and are heating up leftovers for tonight’s dinner, and what’s left we will feed to all those men who are raising our barn starting at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow, before they hitch up the team and head out to plow the back forty.
ANYWAY. All that rainy day cookin’ doesn’t make me “Amish” or even “Pennsylvania Dutch,” exactly, but it does make me feel as if I’m somehow connected to my ancestors. And by the way? YUM.
Filed under: baking, Central PA, cooking, grandparents, nostalgia, recipe, Soup, Why I'm The Way I Am | Tagged: Amish, Central Pennsylvania, Chicken Pot Pie, Pennsylvania Dutch, rainy day, Shoo Fly Pie | 10 Comments »