Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Piece with Beth Howard at the American Gothic House

A couple months ago I wrote about Ham Balls. I wrote about Ham Balls because they were in a book about pie, Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Pie, which I also wrote about in said post. I'm pretty sure I mentioned my excitement about the fact that a group of us who read the book were going to take a pie class from the author, Beth Howard. To add to our fervor, Beth lives, and teaches, in the America Gothic house! We're talking THE house that's in the background of Grant Wood's super-famous iconic painting. Whoa.

We made a day trip out to Eldon, Iowa, an 8-hour round trip from St. Louis. It was more than worth it for the experience of meeting Beth, spending time in a famous house, bonding with friends, and learning to make fantastic apple pie. Kelly detailed how we made the pies on her blog Sounding My Barbaric Gulp, here. Kimberly also wrote about the pie and the trip on her blog Rhubarb and Honey, here

Seeing as both these ladies did a thorough job detailing the class, I will just highlight some of the lessons I learned from Beth, and from the experience in general. With the help of photos from the immensely talented Corey Woodruff, who came along as our personal chauffeur and photographer for the trip. (2 posts in a row with photography by this dude makes my blog look real good... no pressure for my future posts. jeeeez. ;))

Lesson 1: Butter is delicious (but save it for the pie crust.) 

Lesson 2: Your hands are the best tool for mixing the fats into the flour. Butterfingers. Literally! (but don't over mix! Almond-size lumps, not pea-size!)

Lesson 3: FLOUR MITTENS to make your best pie-making tools non-stick.

Lesson 4: Pie is not perfection. Have fun!

Lesson 5: Make dough discs, not war.

Lesson 6: Your dough should be super soft. You might to make out with it, but don't... you'll overwork it (if you know how to make out properly, that is.)


Lesson 8: Get a dough scraper. One of only 3 tools you actually need to make apple pie (others are rolling pin and paring knife.)

Lesson 9: Trim your crust, but leave about an inch to roll under and crimp with (scissors work best, but if you are going for minimal tools, a sharp pairing knife will do.)

Lesson 10: Roll with it! (but not too vigorously)

Lesson 11: Flour is sneaky.

Lesson 12: paring knives have a-peel.

Lesson 13: Pay attention to your teacher, not your instagram photos. ( I got yelled at right after taking this because we were at an important part of the pie-making lesson. Sorry, Beth! It's a nifty photo though...)

Lesson 14: Granny Smith apples. Always.

Lesson 15: If you are too serious about adding sugar to your pie, you might miss your teacher throwing the goat.

Lesson 16: If you like it then you shoulda put a butter on it.

Lesson 17: Be proud! you made pie, and pie makes the world a better place!

Lesson 18: When an author signs a book to you, it makes you automatic friends for life. Right?!? 

Lesson 19: When given the chance, get your photo taken as the American Gothic couple. (There is a visitor center with costumes and instructions for where to stand to replicate the painting.)

Lesson 20: Make sure you have proper flatware. Iowa has the best pie forks!

Lesson 21: When trying to pose for a "serious" photo, use that trick you learned in Pilates class for balancing: you find a focal point and stare at it.

Lesson 22: Don't point a camera at Iron Stef and tell her not to laugh. It will not be pretty. This is scientifically proven.

Lesson 23: "Fuck the Recipe!" was the battle-cry, started by Beth, of the day. And look how pretty my pie turned out (can you see my balls embellishment?) Simply: pie should not be stressful or fussy. (you can find Beth's pie "recipe" here.)

Lesson 24: If they make light switch covers with your house on them, you best use them in your house, 'cuz that doesn't happen for everybody.

Lesson 25: Label your pie box. (Beth labeled mine for me. My reputation preceded me.)

Seriously, this was an awesome day, and I now totally have an appreciation for pie. More so, I have an appreciation for all the things that pie can teach. Lessons about not being too fussy, sharing, thinking about your ingredients and tools, enjoying the time you have with friends and family... the world is a better place with people like Beth and her lessons. And her sexy pies, of course! 


Kimberly said...

Awesome post, Steph! You made me laugh ... and I loved it! So happy that I was able to share this experience with you!

Woody said...

Flour is the sneakiest. Ninja flour.