17 October 2011

Instead, A Piece of Pie

I missed International Blog Action Day.  It was yesterday.  I've been swamped with work and haven't had time to blog.  I chose the topic of food, and was planning a serious post about food production as big business.

Instead, I give you a piece of pie.  Pumpkin pie, to be specific; pumpkin pie I made last night and ate a slice of for lunch today.  When chatting with other parents in the neighborhood recently, I've been struck by the fact that several have apologized for their pie.  "Well, I made the filling, but I used a crust."

My grandmother taught me how to make a pie crust, probably 40 years ago.  Whenever I'm cutting margarine into flour, or adding ice water a teaspoon at a time, I remember spending time with my grandma when I was a kid.  Summer air, coastal Maine, rhubarb from the garden, the company of a gentle soul.

Plus, I like the fact that making a pie crust takes a few ingredients and turns them quickly into something real.

(Most of my work deals with words.  My words, students' words, scholars words.  Pixels on screens, easily imagined as ephemera, non-real, non-concrete, not significant.  But that's a subject for another day.)

Maybe it's important that I was around seven years old when my grandma taught me to make a pie.  Because making a pie crust isn't difficult.  But it seems that by selling pie crusts in the supermarket, food manufacturers have slipped into the minds of the adults of America the idea that Making Pie Crust Is Hard.

And so people buy pie crusts instead of making their own.  Which means Big Ag makes more money selling a prepared product instead of four everyday ingredients (flour, butter, salt, sugar).  And with that prepared product: more packaging, more processing, more chemicals, more preservatives.

As a representative sample, Pillsbury's pie crust has partially hydrogenated lard, whey, sodium metabisulfite, BHA, BHT and two kinds of food coloring in addition to flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.  It comes in a disposable tin foil pie pan wrapped in plastic.

There's a lot we can make from actual ingredients that takes, if anything, only a few minutes longer than using a prepared product (though it may take preparation time in advance).  Idea to leave you with for today: think about the prepared foods you buy, and see if there's one item you can, instead, make from scratch.  Any ideas?