Of Pastry and Philosophy


So I finally, finally was able to hit the Thursday market and was rewarded richly with strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber, hamburger patties, and PIE.

Yes, after hearing weeks of mouth-watering rumors, I visited farm boy baking company to see for myself. Before I could even ask the lovely pie ladies Question #1, I was nearly run off my feet by a woman wanting a berry pie--she'd bought one the week before and it was so good she had to come back for another. This was a promising beginning. I have to confess I'm not a big fan of non-homemade pies because they always seem to be loaded with cornstarch-laden goo--I mean glaze--and not a heck of a lot of fruit. Or else the crust is nasty (I'm looking at you, Marie Callendar's). But farm boy's pies seemed generously filled, and I liked how they offered it by the whole pie or by the slice. The lovely proprietors claimed strawberry-rhubarb as their favorite, so I chose that slice, only to find, when I got home, that I'd been given peach-blueberry. (You see how I suffer for this blog.) The review on strawberry-rhubarb will have to wait, but I found the peach-blueberry delicious: local fruit, not overly glaze-y, just the right thickness of crust. I will definitely be back to try more of their many flavors. The pies can be frozen and reheated, as well.

I also ventured over to Esterina's Heirloom Confections, attracted by Gina's vintage pizzelle iron and photograph. It turns it the iron belonged to Gina's grandmother Esterina, who would hold it over an open fire. In her experimenting, Gina found it cooks faster than the electric pizzelle iron she now uses, but she opts for the electric iron because it makes more at a time, turning out the specialty cookies in anise, lemon, and dark-chocolate/vanilla flavors. I thought to myself, "Who is gonna buy anise flavor?" But just then a couple came up clamoring for the anise-flavored pizzelle they'd bought the week before. Who knew? Gina also whips up biscotti and a different batch of cookies each week, all beautifully wrapped. Gina's family hailed from Calabria, of especial interest to me because I was at that moment halfway through a fictionalized family memoir called Elizabeth Street, which recounted the adventures of the author's great-grandmother, from Scilla in Calabria to New York City, at the turn of the century. Fascinating stuff.

For Gina, food was something wrapped in memories and family, which reminds me--Italians as a culture have a lower incidence of eating disorders. Some have theorized that people get less weird about food if regular family meals are the norm. Food connects the family members; they have a regular time and place to share lives.

While making food treasures from scratch might be out of reach for many of us, I wonder if regular visits to the farmers market and chats with those who grow our food might not serve a similar purpose. Look, kids--food is something to celebrate, something to talk openly about, something that brings people and communities together! Just a thought...