Tom's apple pie
It had been my resolution to swear off pie indefinitely. Alas, that resolution was broken almost as soon as it was made, because there's no way I can resisit my husband's apple pie. No pie lover could. Because Tom Liszkay makes the best apple pie in this quadrant of the galaxy.
Granted, it was me who taught him how, but in this case the pupil has far out shone the master. The pupil has become the master!
But more than my instruction alone has gone into the making of this contemporary piemaster.
For example, it was Tom's mother who formulated the remedy to cure his pies of their soggy bottom crusts by baking the bottom crust for 11 minutes before adding the apple filling.
And it was Tom himself who developed his own slicing style: alternating thin with thicker roundish slices that he piles into the pie plate and in such a way that they bake through to juicy perfection.
Cross-section of Tom's apple pie.
And much of what I taught Tom was passed on to me by my teacher, my mother, herself a master piesmith who at 93 years old can still rock a pie like no other, I'm talking apple, cherry,
blueberry, rhubarb, strawberry, coconut custard, I mean, you name it!
But here's the thing: My mother is one of those persons who doesn't really need a recipe. It's as if she communes with the food, as if the ingredients just her send telepathic messages regarding how they like to be put together. And so my own pie-ducation consisited of watching what my mother did then trying on my own to duplicate her results. And when those results were less than stellar there was no recipe to consult. I had to just pie, pie again.
And the crust - don't even get me started! My mother's pie crust is so thin, light and tender it could stand on its own even without filling, and, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, often does. And yet it has the tensile strength to hold a mountain of apples together. And though I'd watched my mother make her crust dozens of times, for the longest time I couldn't duplicate her results. Nor could she tell me the precise amounts of each ingredient she used to get those results. "Just about this much," she'd say while pouring some flour from the bag into a bowl or tossing in a forkful of shortening.
I spent ten years experimenting before I finally happened upon the correct flour-to- shortening ratio. (4 to 1. Ridiculously simple, yet it took me forever to figure it out!). But I also had to learn that it's more than ingredients that determnes the quality of pie crust: touch is equally important. In that sense pie crusts are like people: if not handled tenderly they will turn out to be tough and at the same time likely to fall apart.
Which brings me to the reason that, even though he's raised the art of the pie to new levels, Tom Liszkay has still not yet reached the pinnacle of piedom: He has not yet learned to make my pie crust. At this stage he still uses refrigerated crust, and can tell you the merits and debits of each brand. But he's relatively young in his pie career and his crust will yet reach the heights of his filling. In the meantime I'll share my crust recipe with you:
Patti's Pie crust recipe
For two crusts to make one filled pie (but maybe you'd better plan making on two!):
2 cups flour
1/2 cup shortening
a 9-inch pie plate
Cut the shortening into the flour. Add the ice water little by little until the dough holds together. (too little water and the dough will be dry. To much and it will be soggy. Sorry, that's the best I can tell you; you kind of have to practice). Very carefully (here's where we get into the handling part) form the dough into a ball. Divide the ball into two.
On a floured surface carefully roll out half the dough into a circle big enough to fit the pie plate with some over-hang to form a rolled crust. Carefully set the crust into the pie plate.
Roll out the other half of the dough until it's as big as the first half.
Pour your filling into the pie plate. Set the second dough circle on top of the filling.
Roll the over -hanging dough into a nice rolled edge. If you have too much over-hanging dough, cut it off. (If you have enough left-over dough, cut it into squares, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake on an ungreased sheet at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until barely browned).
Cut slits into the top of the crust for steam escape. (I always cut into the crust a little picture of the kind of fruit in the filling then with the knife I "write" the name of the fruit over the picture).
Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes (or so).
Have a wonderful weekend, see you Monday!
Patsy Ann Rupp, 1961
In last Saturday's Columbus Dispatch there was an article about a woman named Sheila who intends to legally change her name. She absolutely hates the name Sheila. She thinks it's really ugly. She won't allow that name spoken in her house. So she's going to change her name. To Sexy. She likes the name Sexy.
I imagine at this point you're all asking the same two questions:
1. Why the heck would anybody want to be named "Sexy"? and
2. What's wrong with "Sheila"?
Now, I have no idea what the answer to the first question is, but I know the answer to the second. What's wrong with "Sheila" is that Sheila hates it. And this I understand. Totally. Because I hate "Patricia". It's really ugly. I won't allow that name spoken in my house.
And while Sheila may hate "Sheila", she should consider herself lucky that her name is pretty much nickname-proof and therefore incapable of devolving into an even worse form. For "Patricia", on the other hand, there are several awful nickname devolutions:
- Tish (evokes a tissue)
- Trish (evokes a tissue in the trash)
- Trisha (evokes a tissue in the trash in Italy).
- And then there's the worst of the variations, the one that was my parent's true intention for me, for which "Patricia" was merely a portal of social convention:
That's what my parents named me. Patsy Ann Rupp.
I have a very early memory of someone, probably some friendly adult, bending down and asking me my name and me replying, "Patsy Ann Rupp" and feeling immediately embarrassed for saying such a silly-sounding string of words. From then on I was embarrased by my name and tried never to say it myself.
Still, I kicked around the planet with that name hung on me for a good decade before I realized that I had the power to modify it and still be within the acceptable boundaries of "Patricia".
The above school photo was taken when I was ten years old. It is one of the last photos in existence of Patsy Ann Rupp. Soon afterwards I re-rolled myself out as Pat Rupp.
While "Pat Rupp" was a considerable improvement over "Patsy Ann Rupp", it flowed not at all, sounding less like a real name than the sound that might be made by the approach of a limping elephant: pat-RUPP, pat-RUPP, pat-RUPP, pat-RUPP. I still didn't like it . But it got me through high school.
Pat Rupp, Senior Prom night.
After high school I put five hundred miles between me and the limping elephant and headed off to college in the midwest.
Basking in the friendly vibes of the heartland, I changed myself into Patti, charmingly pronounced by those of my new friends who hailed from Cleveland and points west as "Pyetti".
Which was fine, I liked Pyetti Rupp well enough. But it got even better when people started dropping the first name and I became known as "Rupp", or better yet, "Rupper", or best of all, in a sort of pre- "Big Lebowski" style, "The Rupper".
Though to this day some of my college friends still occasonally refer to me by one of those variations on my old surname, when college ended and my first "real" job began with US Army in Germany, I had to return to using a forename and somehow slipped back into the limping elephant name for a few years.
Then along came a name-changer.
I'd known Tom Liszkay back in college, and I won't go into how fate threw us together while he was stationed in Germany and I was working there. But I did like his surname, "Liszkay", not to mention the fine package that came with it.
And so I finally ended up dropping the limping elephant for good.
Tom and Patti (at last!) Liszkay, February 19, 1977
So I finally made peace with my name. And I'm good so long as nobody calls me:
2. Patsy Ann
3. Pat Rupp
4. "Mother". (For reasons that I won't go into but have nothing to do with my own mother, I hate being called "Mother").
On the other hand, if one night the angel Gabriel appeared to me in a dream and offered to change my name for me and take care of all the necessary paperwork and historical revisions, I just might take him up on it...if only the name "Sexy" weren't already snagged... ;)
So while we freeze our bedoobies off this winter here in the midwestern United States, here's a story of another winter, just to put things into perspective. Or rather, to throw 'em totally out of perspective!
A few years ago when my daughter was working in Leon, Nicaragua, I went down there to visit her. Every day while she worked I took an immersion class in Spanish taught by Zorayda, a friendly, lovely Nicaraguan girl.
My Spanish teacher, Zorayda in our classroom in Leon, Nicaragua. Unfortunately I forgot to bring a decent camera with me.
One afternoon my daughter and I hopped a bus to the beach. It was a hot, hot, hot sunny day, yet the beach was empty, no one was swimming. My daughter didn't know why.
The next day during my class I told Zorayda about our trip to the beach and I asked her why people didn't swim. Don't Nicaraguans like the water?
She looked a little surprised that I'd asked. "It's the middle of winter. Nobody swims in the winter."
Not wanting to sound like an ignorant American I just nodded and said, "Oh" instead of shreiking, "Middle of winter? It's 94 flippin' degrees here! I could swim in my own sweat!"
But later that day when I told my daughter what Zorayda had said I did, in fact shriek , "Middle of winter? It's 94 flippin' degrees here!"
My daughter chuckled. "But in the middle of summer it'll be a hundred and four degrees here!"
So, anyway, I guess we all feel some discontent in our winter, however that winter may be. But it does beg the question: would you rather have a minus 13 degree winter or a 94 degree winter?
The beach near Leon in winter.
PS: Linda - I looked up "Snow Rollers". Dang, now I really want to see one! Keepin' my eyes peeled!
Here in Central Ohio it's crazy cold.
I know everybody in Central Ohio already knows this. I'm simply chronicling the fact for some future cyber-archivist who might be flipping back through the ancient internet scrolls to learn about life long ago in the olden days of the 21st century.
So know, historian of a time yet to come, that on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio, there's about 8 inches of snow on the ground and the predicted low is 15degrees below zero with a wind chill of minus 30. Maybe it's there already.
That is psycho cold!
Which is why when I venture out today teach my piano students. I'll be wearing my hat:
It's one of Tom's old camping hats and I know it makes me look like "Duck Dynasty Goes to Siberia" but at this point I'm beyond caring. So are Tom and Tommy, both of whom wear similar hats:
And so, apparently are Theresa in Cincinnati and Claire in Chicago and their respective significant others, all of whom are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the"D.D.G.T.S.' hats I just bought and sent out to them.
And so, it is on such a winter's day, future historian of the internet, that shivering people in our time and place contemplate when they indulge in "California Dreamin".
I wasn't planning on spending yesterday afternoon stuffing 122 mushrooms. But a couple days earlier I'd come across a golden mushroom opportunity that was just too good to pass up:
On Friday I was meandering through the produce section at Meijer's when I noticed a few fellow shoppers gathered at the mushroom corner. I joined them to discover that the 8-ounce packages of mushrooms were on sale for $1 a package! And these weren't just some middle-aged mushroom cast-offs going cheap; these were so young, lovely, big-capped, and healthy-looking that I started instinctively grabbing along with the others around me, visions of stuffed mushrooms dancing in my head. The packages were buy ten, the eleventh one free, so I snagged eleven then one more for an even dozen. (I like a sense of symmetry).
Now at first I didn't really have a solid plan in my life for the mushrooms - as I said, the whole thing had been more instinctual than intellectual, kind of doing what comes naturally. I mean, how often does a prize like that that waltz your way?
But as I continued on through Meijer's with these mushrooms I knew that if I held on to them and ultimately led them down the aisle - the check-out aisle, that is - then I'd be making a commitment. A commitment that would have to be consummated within a day or two, since once I'd brought these mushrooms home, they'd have to be stuffed, and soon, or else they'd surely turn on me.
Then the light of inspiration lit up my brain:
I remembered that my daughter Claire's wedding is a few months out. I could stuff the mushrooms, freeze them and serve them up at Claire's wedding shower!
The rest of my shopping trip was a joyous one, scooping up all the things I'd need for the upcoming event between the mushrooms and me, up to the moment of check-out when these mushrooms became mine, all mine.
I planned the event for Sunday afternoon and would like to have had as big a stuffing party as would have been possible back in the day when all my kids lived at home (Maria, Claire, Tommy and Theresa: remember our old stromboli brigades where we'd throw together fifteen or twenty of those bad boys in an afternoon?), but this turned out to be a small affair, with only my son Tommy attending.
Still, it was a happy success, the mushrooms were stuffed,baked, and frozen and afterwards Tommy and I celebrated with a chili dinner.
My nephew Randy swung by for dinner and to help with clean-up afterwards. It was a memorable day!
And to any of you our there who might one day be fortunate enough to meet up with the mushroom deal of your dreams, I offer this:
Easy & Fabulous Stuffed Mushrooms
12 whole fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems fine.
2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped mushroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared. (Be careful no to burn the garlic). Set aside to cool.
3. When mushroom mixture is cool, stir in cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and onion powder. Fill each mushroom cap with stuffing - be generous! Arrange mushroom caps on the baking sheet.
4. Bake for about 25 or 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are a little browned on top.
Regarding yesterday's post on the freaky postage incident Jean commented:
"Patti, I might know what happened there. I mailed a package this week with
that same postage machine. When the stamp came out it hugged the top of the
receptacle box and I almost missed it. I thought it had not come down. The
postman told me to feel along the top part and there it was. Maybe someone ahead
of you did the same thing and no one was in there to tell them where the postage
stamp was and they left it. So when you paid for yours you picked up theirs and
someone elso got yours and turned it into the desk. Does this make sense?"
Yes, Jean this makes perfect sense!
Tom had actually concluded something along the line of your explanation,that is, somebody had left their stamp in the machine and I picked it up, but we still couldn't figure out why anybody would leave their stamp in the machine. And how did the postal worker get ahold of the stamp that I had bought?
But now I get it: When someone buys a stamp it gets stuck in the machine until the next person comes along. Then the next person's stamp knocks down the stuck stamp but gets stuck itself until the next stamp comes along and knocks it down and then becomes the stuck stamp until the next stamp comes along, etcetera, etcetera, per omnia secula seculorum...
Anyway, I think our local post office needs to fix that machine toot-sweet, because - okay, I was about to make a dumb joke about "going you-know-what" but my inner director just yelled "Cut! Cut!", so I'll try to remember that the better part of valor is discretion and cut it right here. 'Nuff said, right?
Anyway, thanks to Jean for clearing up the mystery!
Everyone have a wonderful weekend - those on the East Coast and here in the Heartland, stay warm! See you Monday! ;)
You haven't yet received your birthday present due to a strange and perplexing series of events that went down at and in the vicinity of our local Post Office. I'm so sorry about this. And kind of ticked. The mystery may still be unravelling,but here's what is known so far:
1. Last Saturday I took your package to the post office. As there was the typical long line at the service desk I went to the self-sevice machine. I always wondered why there never seems to be anybody using the self-sevice machine. Now I have a clue.
2. I gave the machine all the information it asked of me and I allowed it to suck however much money it wanted from my credit card.
3. It spit out a piece of postage (which I affixed to the package without verifying that it was for the right amount. I mean, who bothers to do that,right?) and - most fortunately - a receipt. Which I saved.
4. Yesterday, Tuesday, my package was returned to me for insufficient postage. Pasted to the upper right hand corner was 66 cents worth of postage.
5. I looked at that 66-cent stamp and said, "What the...?!"
6. I showed Tom the 66-cent stamp on the package and he said, "What the...?"
7. Fortunately we knew exactly where the receipt for the package was because we have a system: Each receipt that comes into the house is dropped on the kitchen table until one of us decides to move it to the dining room table. There it sits 'til we need it again or decide to throw it away. So I knew right where this receipt was: on the dining room table. Sure enough, I had paid $3.23 for that 66-cent stamp.
8. As I had to get to work Tom gallantly offered to return to the post office to run the gauntlet that was sure to await him there.
9. After standing in the long, slow line to the service desk, Tom showed the postal worker behind the desk the package with the 66-cent stamp and the receipt for $3.23. "Nothing the post office can do about it," responded the remarkably incurious postal worker, who then told Tom: "you'll have to pay the difference if you want that package to go out. If you want you can take it up with your credit card company." Right. For $2.57.
10. Still, Tom decided to do just that and this story is getting too long so I'll just cut as close to the chase as I can. Tom took the package to the library down the block and made a xerox copy of its front as evidence for the credit card company, then he took the package back to the post office to play their little game, pay up and get it mailed to Romaine, savoring the sweet revenge he'd feel when our credit card company eventually rejected payment for the $2.57.
But this time around he got a different postal worker.
After he re-told his story this postal worker said, cryptically, "Oh yeah. Last Saturday. Your wife put the wrong stamp on there." The worker then reached under the counter and came up with a piece of postage printed for $3.23. "Here," he said, handing Tom the stamp, "this is the one she was supposed to use."
"What?" asked my very confused husband, but the postal worker answered with a look that said, If you want your package to arrive at its destination before the next Ice Age, you'll put the stamp on the package and zip it.
So Tom did as he was told then handed the package over to the postal worker who dispatched the package to the bowels of the U.S. post office and that's all we know at this point, but Romaine, if that package does arrive to you then hopefully we can put this inauspcious occurrence behind us. Maybe some mysteries are better left unsolved.
But Happy Birthday,anyway, Romaine! Have a wonderful day! And may the coming year be full of good things for you!
Love, Patti 8)
So you've seen "the Wolf Of Wall Street". Now wash out your mind by discovering Sam Polk.
Last year, three years after walking away from his phenominal-paying job as a Wall Street trader and overcoming his addiction to the acquisition of wealth, Sam Polk founded Groceryships.
The following is from the November 21, 2013 article on Sam Polk written by Willy Blackmore, Food Editor of the website TakePart:
"...Groceryships, (is) a nonprofit based in Los Angeles that helps families stuck in the uniquely modern dilemma of poverty: being both hungry and obese. As Polk explains, Groceryships are scholarships for food. 'For six months, families receive financial assistance to help put food on the table and participate in a comprehensive six-month program of educational and emotional support.'
In addition to learning about nutrition, healthy cooking and shopping, and exercise, families involved in the program watch a film curriculum that includes Supersize Me, Forks Over Knives, and Food, Inc.
'The obesity-and-hunger crisis in America is infinitely complex, and we don’t know if we have the answer,' Polk says, acknowledging that Groceryships, a fledgling operation, doesn’t know if its programs will succeed just yet. But tackling the problem head-on is the first step to success."
You can read the rest of the article and see a video in which Sam Polk talks about the mission of Groceryships at:
Here are a couple more sources where you can learn about Sam Polk and his work:
1. There's a Huffington Post blog by Polk entitled Yuppies Watching Documentaries in which he talks about how he heard the calling to start Groceryships. He also tells of the pain he felt as an overweight child who at the same time knew hunger at those times when there was insufficeint food for his family.
2. And then there's a youtube video interview by Take Part Live in which Polk explains how a child can be both malnourished and obese. He then goes on to discuss his own food and eating
3. And, of course, you can check out the website www.groceryships.com
Discover Sam Polk! It's inspirational reading and watching!
PS - Romaine, I have seen Wall Street but now that you've reminded me about it I'm going to watch it again. Then I'll have to wash out my mind again!
Last Saturday night I saw "The Wolf Of Wall Street", Jordan Belfort's entertaining memoir of his escapades as stock swindler addicted to drugs, sex and money.
The next morning I read a New York Times Sunday Review op-ed piece called "For The Love Of Money" written by Sam Polk, another former Wall Street "wolf".
Sam Polk was a hedge fund trader for Bank of America and Citibank whose drug and alcohol abuse and ensuing self-destructive behavior began during his student days at Columbia University.
With the help of a counselor he was able to quit those substances, but replaced them with an equally self-desctructive addiction: an addiction to the pursuit of money, called wealth addiction.
As Polk wrote of himself on receiving a $3.6 million bonus:
"...I was angry because it wasn't big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philathropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted."
No matter how much wealth he accrued he burned for more and was "nagged by envy" because there was always someone out on the trading floor whose bonuses soared above his. Being a millionaire wasn't enough. Sam Polk wanted - needed - to become a billionaire. He described himself as "a giant fireball of greed."
And then one day during a meeting with one of his "absurdly wealthy bosses" Polk had an epiphany. He wrote:
"From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders direct at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. Ever see what a drug addict is like when he's used up his junk?....the trading floor started to feel like a neighborhood in 'The Wire' when the heroin runs out."
Sam Polk walked away from Wall Street cold turkey and got clean of his addiction.
What does he do now?
"In the three years since I've left, I've married, spoken in jails and juvenile detention centers about getting sober, taught a writing class to girls in the foster system, and started a non-profit called Groceryships to help poor families struggling with obesity and food addiction. I am much happier."
And what has Jordan Befort done since leaving the stock market where he made his multi-millions?
He served a brief prison term, wrote "The Wolf Of Wall Street", sold the movie rights, and now earns his daily bread as a motivational speaker and by selling people a study course on how to make millions.
Jordan Belfort lives in Manhattan Beach, California and his current net worth is around a hundred million dollars.
Do you think Hollywood would be interested in making a movie about Sam Polk?
Source: "For The Love Of Money" by Sam Polk, The New York Times Sunday Review, January 19, 2014.
So I guess the yang to the yin of "Breaking Bad" would be "My Name Is Earl," another television show I once had a brief but intense fling with.
The story line of this show centered around a luckless bottom-feeder named Earl Hickey who is hit by a car and while lying in a hospital bed watching a TV show about karmic retribution decides to turn his life around. From then on his life's calling becomes to right every wrong he's ever done to anyone.
break good (brak gud) 1. To do a good deed, say a kind word, or engage in some other form of admirable behavior that sharply contrasts with one's typical or expected offensive behavior. 2. To turn one's life around for the better.
(That's as close a definition as I can come up with in a few words).
Breaking good is a bit more complicated than breaking bad.
Because, as Earl discovered, once you've acquired a nasty reputation people are slow to accept, if they ever accept at all, that you might actually be capable of good intentions. Especially those people who were hurt or offended by your former words or deeds.
We don't like bad things happening to good people; we're likewise not particularly crazy about good things happening to bad people. Ditto hearing that people we've decided are bad have been caught doing good things.
Because once we've formed a negative opinion about a person on a personal level, whether the person has offended us or just rubbed our sensibilities the wrong way by their behavior, we tend to have scant interest in seeing our negative opinion negated. When we've sentenced a person to the dark side in our mind we have no desire to see them cast in a positive light. After we've categorized and boxed someone in they sometimes have to punch long and hard at the walls before we'll let them out. If we're big enough to ever even let them out.
On the other hand, as Earl also learned, an apology and an act of generosity are always always good first steps.
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTPN7NYY
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.