So I make my tenth pie crust. It looks exactly like the other nine; soft and gooey with a slick of grease on the top.
Once upon a time. Once upon a time, a village was suffering. The children were cold, the huts were little more than piles of sticks, and everybody was hungry.
I throw up my hands and swallow my pride and beg for advice.
And one day, a young gatherer named Poyeshao was wandering the woods looking for red berries. He was weak and tired and when the low voice began to speak, he didn’t know if it was real or not.
And my friend Marilla immediately offers to come over and teach me how to make the best apple pie I’ve ever eaten in my life.
The voice said, “Sit here, on this rock. If you listen to one story, I will give you all the berries the village can eat.” Poyeshao said, “But what is a story?”
We’re standing in my kitchen and Marilla is gently running crumbs of butter and flour against her fingertips and saying, “See? Once you’ve got this grainy texture it’s time to add the cold water,” and it makes perfect sense.
“A story,” said the voice, “is telling what happened a long time ago.” And the voice told Poyeshao a story, and when he turned to go he saw a basket filled to the very top with berries.
Marilla hands the rolling pin to me. “Now you try.” I roll the dough clumsily at first, then my side of the crust begins to match hers. “My granny taught me how to do this,” Marilla says, “when I was just five years old.”
When Poyeshao arrived home with the huge basket of berries, the villagers were astonished and begged him to tell them how he found so many. He told them about the voice in the forest. And the next day, Poyeshao went into the woods with six other gatherers. And the next, twenty five, until finally the entire village was listening to stories every day until one day, of course, they could tell the stories to each other.
And I can see five year old Marilla and her granny. And her great great grandmother and back and back…
Once upon a time. Once upon a time, there was a flourishing village. The huts were strong and warm. Crops grew in great swathes, and the children, round the rosy-cheeked, sat around the storyteller’s feet.
And my first bite of pie tastes of stories, of moments, of women running the grainy butter and flour through their fingertips for two hundred years, and it is exquisite.
Photo Steven Depolo
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