The Big Apple and Apple Pie

If you live abroad for sometime and then return back to your home country, the last few weeks and months of your stay become more meaningful and significant. You try to put things into your schedule that you had planned on “getting to later”. You try to see everyone that has been a part of your journey and say your goodbyes. You thoughtfully construct the life to which you are heading, while simultaneously closing the one you have been living. Life feels uncertain and emotional. In these moments, humans need a bit of ceremony.

I actually don’t like the word “ceremony.” It sounds so archaic, cold, forced, rule-abiding. I wish there was another word. It is defined as 1) a formal act or set of acts performed as prescribed by ritual or custom; 2) a conventional social gesture or act of courtesy; 3) a formal act without intrinsic purpose; an empty form; or finally 4) strict observance of formalities or etiquette. YUCK. Formal, conventional, strict… see what I mean?

All the more reason to construct our own rituals and rights of passage in our own way. It was a French man needing a culinary “right of passage” that brought me to making apple pie this summer. Sebastien Clerc, a wonderful French actor and good friend, called and asked me if I would teach him how to make American apple pie before he moved back to Paris. He just had to do this before he left. Uhhh… yeah! Apple pie? In the Big Apple? Of course!

I was extremely clumsy that day, as we say in French, maladroite. I was running into things, stumbling. I had him cut most of the apples–why risk it? We talked about life and his move back to France. I explained why you put the cut apples in water with lemon juice so they don’t turn ugly brown. He showed me his “Sebastien Clerc” reel on youtube. I taught him that it’s better to use flour instead of cornstarch as a thickener. The pie crust was a disaster for the bottom piece, but beautiful for the top piece (the top piece had rested longer in the fridge). I found out he knew how to dance Flamenco. What? Really?

We baked the pie and talked about theatre. We ate dinner and allowed ourselves to be opinionated on whatever we wanted. We had our pie with ice cream, because pie just out of the oven deserves it. I then packed up some pie for him to take home, and we said our goodbyes. I’m sure I’ll see Seb a few more times before his return, and I’m sure I will visit him in Paris when I’m there. But a night of apple pie as ceremony and closure on leaving New York City would always be special, and I was honored to have been a part of it.
—- Elise McMullen a.k.a. The Galavant Girl

Everyone claims to have the best apple pie recipe. Do some research, try some things, but here are a few of my own pointers:
1. Use green granny smith apples (some peeled, some not)
2. Soak your cut apples in water and lemon juice. Ads flavor, and keeps your pie from looking too brown.
3. Use flour instead of cornstarch for thickening
4. Make sure to create vents on the top of the pie for steam to escape
5. Use cold butter instead of shortening for the crust–butter is better for you, believe me
6. Use unbleached cane-sugar, and if you have it, a bit of brown sugar for flavor.

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