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The art of making a good pie


March 19, 2012
Billie Shelton , The Daily Freeman Journal

When I saw my son one day last week, he wished me a "Happy Pi Day!" That reminded me of the date, which on that day was 3.14.

In case you've forgotten your geometry class, pi, the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet, is defined as "a transcendental number, approximately 3.14159, representing the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle and appearing as a constant in a wide range of mathematical problems." So that's why March 14 is pi day (3.14).

I never did have to learn that definition; I prefer to call pi just one part of the torture of math equations and problems while I was in school. I got much more confident and successful at math in the few required math classes I needed in college, but those junior high and high school classes were always a challenge for me. And yet I do recall that the circumference of a circle can be found via pi(r) squared.

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At the middle school where I am employed, one math teacher celebrates March 14 by serving pie and ice cream to her students. I bet they will remember it when they're grown up, and maybe they'll make their own pie in honor of that math teacher they were privileged to have in their youth.

Actually, if you're a real Iowan, pie (not pi) is always an excellent reason to celebrate. Or it's good to enjoy when you're celebrating just about anything. Sometimes I think that pie could be the official dessert for Iowa. I know homemade pie is certainly a huge draw when you're serving an ice cream social or some kind of big celebration. I attended a benefit auction several years back when a pie from one of the best pie makers in town brought over $100.

I'm afraid that the art of baking pies is slowly fading away, though, even here in Iowa. Perhaps it has something to do with how long it takes to make a pie. And then it is consumed so quickly. There is a bit of an art to making good pie, too, and it seems to me that some women are intimidated at even the idea of it, although for our mothers and grandmothers it was a simple task. I heard of a farm wife who used to make a pie or two every single day for her husband and the hired men on their farm in the 1930s.

My way to get past the intimidation factor is by making one crust pies only. I've never even attempted to make meringue, although my mother is a true pro at it. Her lemon meringue pie is truly a work of art, a treat for the eyes as well as the belly. The love in it must be what makes it special.

You just can't get that in a pie from the frozen food section or the bakery.



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