Dear friends and family,
I’m making you a pie. I’m going to eat it, but I’ll think of you the whole time.
After two weeks of being in travel limbo between Chicago, Sophia, and Belgrade, here I am at last in Vidin, Bulgaria, where I will be stationed for the next 10 months. More precisely, I’m sitting on the floor of my living room, next to my fridge (yes, still in the living room), waiting for my pie to come out of the oven (which is in the kitchen, next to the washing machine). While twiddling away my first night of solitude, I have chosen butter and sugar as the lights of my life.
Technically, I’m sitting on the floor waiting for my pie, but in spirit I’m back in my parents’ kitchen, where they will soon scold me for leaving flour on the countertop but thank me for dessert; I’m in my grandmother’s kitchen, where she is crumbling butter and sugar over her Dutch apple pie; I’m in my college apartment, where my roommate is making her signature blueberry pie with the intended recipient’s initials cut into the crust. From her baking high horse, she is elaborating on the importance of high-quality fruit. Her pie has a small mountain of fresh blueberries oozing juice through cracks in the pastry. My plum and nectarine pie is oozing its own fresh fruit juices, with nectarines from the market and plums from my friendly neighbors one floor down.
(If we’re being picky, it’s not actually a pie. It’s a crostata. But pie is so much more welcoming and homey and, well, American, than crostata. All my applicable memories have to do with pie, not crostata.)
As I’m sure I will say about so many other things this year, this is the first time I have ever baked a pie myself. With it, I’ve learned a few things, most importantly that my oven has a hot spot in the back and that the “4” on the dial is roughly 350 degrees Fahrenheit. And that food can fill you with cheer and warmth and memories of friendship, but I already knew that one. Thank you for being with me as I have prepared to come here for the year and for being with me tonight as I remembered all your encouragements and advice, pie-related and otherwise. Hopefully I will be able to restrain myself and share the pie and count it as a step toward making new friendships and new memories, but I’ve already eaten half of it while composing the last paragraph, and breakfast is only eight hours away.
P.S. I know you’re probably far more interested in details about where my town and where I’m living than what I’m baking, and those will come. But pie requires far less unscrambling of emotions. Plus it tasted like the perfect end of summer.
(Pie inspired by this recipe, which was inspired by this recipe. I didn’t have the luxuries of whole wheat flour or a food processor, but I did slip some ginger and cinnamon into the fruit mix, mainly to show off my new spice collection to myself.)