There are many things folks consider to be very American. Way up there at the top of the list has to be Apple Pie. Everyone has heard the expression, “It’s American as apple pie.” I, for one, love apple pie all year round, but especially around Thanksgiving.
I come from a 100% Italian family that had four boys and one girl. Feeding us all was a chore for my mom. I will note that in our day, we all ate what was served; no private vegan choices were made in my time. We had a custom-made Italian inlaid dining room table that was literally a genuine piece of Rococo art. We only used it for the big holidays, such as Thanksgiving. Our family’s Italian-style Thanksgiving always included home-baked manicotti, roast beef, a huge turkey, veal parmigiana, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens and fresh mozzarella and other cheeses, wine, champagne, Vermont apple cider, etc. My mom would start baking at 6:30 am.
Back then, folks like my dad were thankful they not only won World War II but lived to enjoy it. Many of my friends’ families had relatives who were killed in action. My dad was in the 8th Air Force flying thirty-six B-17 missions that sadly lost one-third of their planes on many low-altitude bombing missions over Germany. War is always a horrific enterprise, and my dad knew and experienced the horrors of that war. There is a famous picture of a B-17 on fire crashing. My dad knew that crew. So, his generation went over the top celebrating Thanksgiving and life because they truly knew sacrifice.
Part of our family celebrating life was desserts after our “all afternoon Thanksgiving feast.” This was when the warm chestnuts and an assortment of pies were brought from the kitchen to the dining room. The parade of desserts consisted of Italian cookies, cannoli, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, coconut custard pie, lemon meringue pie, and my personal favorite, warm apple pie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
In the Hamptons, many bake apple pies using local apples. Others buy them freshly made from farm stands. If you’re lucky, you get a pie that’s so fresh it’s still warm. I remember an apple farm in Mendon, Vermont, that was always baking pies on weekends, so if you waited, you could get a warm one.
On the east end this time of year, there are no shortages to get freshly baked pies such as apple pie. A favorite location of mine has always been Seven Ponds Orchards, off Seven Ponds Rd and Flying Ponds Road. Now, it’s grown to a super attraction with a huge maze for kids. When I first started going there, it was basically a garage.
My wife, Cindi, bakes me apple pies weekly. No sugar, no preservatives, just one or two natural ingredients like nutmeg and a hint of pure maple syrup. Years back, Cindi was gifted two tiny three-foot-tall apple trees that I planted in our front yard. Now, a decade later, they are mature apple-producing trees. This fall, they produced the most apples they ever have, and when they were ripe, Cindi was baking nice small apple pies every other day.
We only put on the tiniest scoop of vanilla ice cream and eat a slice together after it comes out of our oven. In that moment, we are like kids. To avoid my health issues, her pies only have pie plate crust with no pie crust on the top. Eating apple pie from apples from trees in the yard is the essence of homemade apple pie.
All the apples are gone from our trees now that it’s November, so I am purchasing a bag of apples a week to make pies. We enjoy the aroma coming from the oven while the pies are baking. It makes a house a home. As busy as we may be, we come together to jointly sample that first slice after it cools from coming out of the oven. The saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” was never needed in our relationship. However, sharing homemade apple pie at home definitely keeps our hearts lovingly beating.