Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pies and Pies

My son has frequently asked me why I haven't reviewed pie on my blog, since I mention pies in the blog description.  I decided he was right and I searched the internet for some good pie recommendations in the Boston area. I was happy to find Petsi Pies in Somerville.  The glowing reviews were well earned. Just walking into Petsi Pies, you know you're about to have something good; it smells like bakery heaven.  I tried the Brown Butter Pecan and the Apple Crumb pies.  What I think sets Petsi Pies apart is the pie crust.  Impossibly buttery, not too flaky and not too dense, the crust itself could serve as a dessert.  The pecan filling in the Brown Butter Pecan had an abundance of candied pecans, plus plenty of butter, sugar and what tasted like maple flavor; it was sweet and substantial, and worked really well with the buttery crust. The apple crumb was equally good, with fresh, cooked apples on the inside and a butter/sugar crumb topping that was much more delicious than the traditional apple pie crust topping.  This will not be my last visit to Petsi Pies.

A pie review gives me an opportunity to talk about my grandmother, who was an expert at making a different kind of pie.  I'm not sure if her pie recipe ever had a proper name, but we always called them, simply, "the pies."  I guess you could call them covered pizzas;  they were made of a thin crust, folded over, and filled with paired fillings such as broccoli and sausage, meat and spinach, olives and onions.  They were not calzones, but big, rectangular, "pies" which were cut into squares and served at room temperature.  My grandmother would spend the better part of an entire day making them and they were always delicious.  They did not exist anywhere else in the world except in her kitchen;  the pies were not something that you could find in any restaurant or on any menu.  I remember there was one family event where people were toasting my grandparents--it must have been a birthday or an anniversary.  My mother's cousin made a speech and mentioned how amazing my grandmother's pies were, and I remember thinking, wow, someone else outside of my immediate family loves the pies as much as I do; someone knew about them and had loved them, before I was even born.  It always seemed like they existed just for us.  I think that's the hallmark of a great recipe, that it seems like it's made just for you.

At some point in my adult life I decided that I needed to write down the recipes for the pies and preserve them.  During a weekend visit I impulsively grabbed the closest thing to paper I could find, which turned out to be the back of a greeting card, and had my grandmother recite how to make the pies. And then we made them.  This was my grandmother and I, that day:

I still have the recipe for the pies, still on that greeting card.  As it turns out, the pies are one of the very few Italian family recipes that my dairy-allergic daughter can eat, since these don't contain any dairy products.  I make them every Christmas.  My pies are not as good as my grandmother's, but every year I try a little harder to get them right. 

I lost my grandmother about four or five years after I recorded the recipe, when I was 32 years old.  I very clearly remember the day of her funeral; I remember looking around at the people that were there to pay tribute to her as I listened to the words of the service.  And I remember thinking that life, really, is all about love.  She was loved, I thought, as I sat there.  It's not about the job you had or your awards or accomplishments or your resume. It's about the love.

It kind of takes away some of the stresses of life, I think, when you focus on that.  It's the relationships that we share that end up meaning the most.  It's the love that is the legacy. 

And pies.

Thanks Grandma.  


  1. I'm sure that love was given back to you, from her,10 times over. Beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady from a beautiful lady.

  2. lovely tribute. I'm guessing your grandmother's recipes are like mine were: any written measurements were guesses based on them knowing how much to toss in of any given ingredient. Makes em hard to reproduce.

    1. Thank you Jeff! Yes, hard to replicate sometimes!!

  3. Great job Antonia! One of my favorite people was my Aunt Tessie. So talented so generous, and so loving, was she. Look what she has given us - 2 Fantastic Daughters, 6 Wonderful Grandchildren and 8 Beautiful Great Grandchildren. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  4. Thank you so much for this nice comment and thank you for reading!!

  5. Beautifully written. Nothing better than to read a story involving food and loved ones. Really, what more is there to life. I will be a regular visitor to your blog as I never knew you had one. Great job of keeping my Aunt Tess alive. Her spirit lives forever. God Bless you for doing so.
    Cousin Michael

  6. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment!