I like [good] pies – a personal history

Posted on September 4, 2009 by


Some light, simple, personal history for the day…

As I said… I like good pies… apple, cherry, coconut cream, lemon meringue, etc., etc. Not only do I like good pies, but I like to make good pies. I think the older I get, the more serious I am about making good pies… better. They are tasty, though I need to refine my skills at making the edges of my crusts a little “prettier.” I have to say though that I’m taking the design of the lattice crust work atop my Montmorency Cherry pies much more seriously, and bordering on artwork.

So where does this passion for pie-making have its roots?

When I was growing up, my Grandmother Hilliard (1903-1994) made the best darn pies… apple, hack-apple, mincemeat (not the traditional type, however… thankfully), lemon meringue (I haven’t quite mastered making that type of pie from scratch), and coconut cream. Seems to me, I also recall having a few tasty pies at my great-grandmother Hilliard’s (1879-1982) house on a couple of occasions. When my Grandmother Bricker made pies, I was usually there in the kitchen with her, using pop-bottle tops as mold-forms, cutting out impressions from the left-over crust, sprinkling them with cinnamon sugar (cinnamon often being one of the key ingredients in about everything she makes), baking them, and making a tasty treat.

Of course, there is also some history in this effort to make good pies.

First, there is a family story…

I never knew her, but have heard stories about my great-great grandmother Moore (1865-1951) and her take on pie-making. It’s said that she would throw out pies if they didn’t come out tasting just right.

Then, we have history that I didn’t learn through family stories, but discovered through research.

I know (having just discovered this through research in the last few years) that my great-great-great grandfather, Robert McKinney (1808-1876), was, in 1860, working as a confectioner in Clear Spring, Maryland. A decade later, in 1870, my great-great-great grand aunts, Mary H. Moore (1827-1893) and Elizabeth Margaret Moore Hower (1821-1902), were working, quite possibly in the same confectionary shop that Robert McKinney was working at in 1860, in Clear Spring. I can’t figure out quite where that confectioner shop was in Clear Spring (many of the original period buildings are still intact on the main street through the old town).


That reminds me… I was really excited last summer when I saw, for the first time, a confectioner shop/confectionery (labeled as such) in Harpers Ferry. I had never seen a 19th century confectioner shop interpreted before. HPIM0686So, I could, to some degree, imagine what the one must have been like in Clear Spring, where my different family members worked. I can only imagine the variety of sweets that these confectioners made in their time. Makes me hungry…

So, knowing the legacy left from nearly 201 years of pie-making/makers, I suppose, therefore, that I take my pie-making a little more seriously.

History can inspire us in interesting and seemingly unusual ways. I have no doubt that we should embrace and enjoy the manner in which history weaves its way into our daily lives. Yet, we should also take care how we fill the gaps in-between historical fact and contemporary memory. We should also be careful how we weave the history of the past into contemporary memory, making sure not to make both, one in the same. There are “lines” between real memory and history beyond our memory. We can blur this line at times to satisfy something within ourselves. That’s fine, but when it comes to conveying history to others, we should make sure not to blur the lines too much to the point where we merge self-indulgence for history and our contemporary memory with historical fact. The often-resulting “historical memory” is distinctly different from the type of real, experienced memory that is formed from personal experience… of the person telling the history.