Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The White Ribbon

After being cooped up in a minivan with my brother, sister, and parents for two hours, we had finally arrived at the middle of nowhere, but the center of everything we knew, in the little town of Gowen, Oklahoma. We stepped out of the van to the familiar sights of trees and the little pond, and the sounds of the chickens as they fought for whatever scraps they could find. We were attacked by Sarah, the sweet sheltie whose tail never stopped wagging. I leapt out of the van and ran toward the house as quickly as my little legs would take me, hugged the necessary family members, and my ten year old self made a bee-line for the refrigerator. I had to be the first one to open that door - I was on a mission.

I knew that my Nana had made pies for us because she knew we were coming. My eyes scanned the counters, confirming there were indeed pies, but I continued on to the fridge, with the hope that she had remembered me in her baking. I flung open the door and starting rummaging, moving around the unmarked yogurt tubs that she stored everything in, until my eyes settled on my pot of gold. There, formed into a white ball, wrapped in plastic wrap, was my prize: uncooked pie dough. My Nana saved her leftovers for me after she finished her crusts. That ball of flour, salt, crisco, and water was like manna to my young heart, and I victoriously grabbed that dough out of the fridge and immediately began devouring it. My Nana shook her head, not understanding what I found remotely appetizing about uncooked pie crust dough.

That scene played itself out countless times in my childhood and as I became a young adult. My love for pie crust dough never ceased, and my Nana continued to keep the scraps for me, as a token of her love for me and her expectancy of our visits.

As I grew up, I began learning how to make my own pies and my own pie crusts. My mom taught me, as I'm sure my Nana taught her. When I was in college, Nana died suddenly. After she passed away, I remember receiving back some of the gifts and crafts I had made her that she had always proudly displayed at her house. My mom asked me what things of Nana's I might want, and I had a few simple requests. When I received my items I got exactly what meant the most to me: a pie plate, a flour sifter, and a pie dough separator.

This year I entered the Tulsa State Fair with an apple pie, and I won a white ribbon for third place. Of course I used my Nana's dough separator, and I was proud that I was able to win a prize. I know she would have been thrilled. This week I made another pie and there I stood in my kitchen, looking at my pie utensils, and I was transported in time for a moment, envisioning my Nana making pie after pie with those same tools. I doubt that I will ever make as many pies as she did, and I know they won't ever taste as good, but I felt that for a moment, our hearts connected, and knew that while she is no longer with me, her legacy will be forever.

When I make pie now, Karlie comes into the kitchen, asking for scraps of pie crust dough. She hovers around the pie and as pieces fall off onto the counter she scoops them up and dips them into the apple and cinnamon sugar mixture and eats it. And I can't help but think about how many generations will continue to make those pies and eat that dough in remembrance of those that have gone before us.

And so, I am very proud of my white third place ribbon from the fair, but I am most proud of the skill my Nana passed down in our family and how she used her baking as yet another way to share her unconditional love to her family. I hope that one day I have a granddaughter and that she will know, as I knew, that she is always remembered and always loved, even in the little things, like pie dough.



  1. I haven't cried this hard for a few years. Thank you for sharing your motives behind your pie baking. My heart is so thankful to know that Nana continues to have an impact in your life, because of her love; shown in such a simple way.

  2. I didn't know your Nana and it made me cry. Great post, written from your heart.


  3. Congrats on your ribbon, and good for you for even entering! My Grammy taught me how to bake pies, and it is still my very favorite dessert to make. But I'm going to need you to school me a bit...what is a pie dough separator? Have never used one!

  4. My memories of cooking/baking with my grandmothers and mother are some of the fondest I have...and the reason I love to do it today. One of the things I'm most excited about for this baby, is to be in the kitchen with me as he or she grows up!

  5. What a wonderful post and a wonderful memory for you. And how cool that you get to share that with Karlie now!

  6. I remember how nana would always make us the most yummiest of yummy treats. As soon as I got to her house, we'd go to Walmart and stalk up on the necessary items. Like Rainbow Marshmallows. She'd make me rice with milk and sugar, and I can honestly say I've never eaten any form of rice that has ever been that good since. And I too, remember the pie crust, and I'm pretty sure she started separating the balls of dough to minimize the fighting between us. Haha.


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