He is eating something called pie, which I have never actually tasted, but it looks delicious. I wish that it weren't against the rules for him to share food with me.* * *The flakiness of the sugared crust...reminds me of crystals on an edge of snow. The red-stained berries smeared across the plate, ripe and surely full of taste.–Cassia, Matched, Chapter 6
In the last moments of your grandfather's life, before his allotted time runs out, you and your family sit with him for his last meal and sentiments. He has chosen several desserts for his final Banquet, including a thoughtful surprise; cherry pie. So he did notice you eying his slice the day before. He sees your reaction and gives you a warm smile. This is the last time you will see that smile, the last time you will feel it. In the second that passes you fight to keep your composure. This is right, the best way. The Society is never wrong. And Grandfather would not want you to be troubled, especially on his last day. Hoping he can tell how much love you are putting behind it, you push a return smile onto your face. And of course he sees, of course he knows. You straighten up and focus on the pie.
I serve everyone else first and then I pick up my piece of pie, flaky and warm and fruit-filled, and lift a forkful of the pastry to my mouth.
I wonder if death will always taste this good.–Cassia, Matched, Chapter 7
Life is just a slice of cherry pie, but getting euthanized is the pits.
Matched (2010) is the first book of the New York Times bestselling Matched Trilogy by young adult author Ally Condie. I had the great opportunity of meeting Ally on several occasions when I lived in Utah (you can read about a couple my experiences here and here) and she is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people you could ever meet, and her writing style is concise and elegant. The setting of Matched is a future utopian/dystopian society where most aspects of a person's life are determined for them, like their meals, their job, and who they will be matched, or married, to. In beautiful first person narrative, the main character Cassia (kă-shuh) relates her adherence to, and then gradual falling away from, this society as certain events transpire and overlap through the course of the book. The stirring villanelle by the famous poet Dylan Thomas, "Do not go gentle into that good night", surfaces throughout the story in text and theme, first appearing handwritten on a yellowing piece of paper secreted inside a generations old golden compact given to Cassia by her grandfather. Please read the full poem here. It's gorgeous.
The inclusion of cherry pie in the final scenes with Cassia's grandfather is significant to me because it reminds me of my own grandparents and the many times my sister and I filled big plastic buckets with fresh cherries from the trees my grandfather had planted on his farm. It was a family affair, with my mom and dad helping too, my dad lifting my sister and I, sometimes with our dog Sebastian, up to the tops of the cherry trees in the bucket of the big red tractor. The cherries were sour but that didn't stop me from eating so many that should have gone into my bucket. After all of the ones at the tops of the trees were picked, Dad would lower us down and then I'd climb into the branches to get the rest (oh, how I love climbing trees!). Then it was off to the farmhouse kitchen to remove the pits from the cherries and cook them up for pies and preserves. My grandmother had a special pie recipe for fresh sour cherries, but I can't remember it and it's guarded fiercely by my mother (love you, Mom!). I've come up with a couple of my own, easy-peasy cherry pie recipes; minimal ingredients but yummy.
Note: Because cherry season has come and gone (sorry! I made like 6 or so cherry pies over the past couple months trying to get the recipes just right, for taste as well as photos, but we can only eat one pie at a time!). I've included ingredients and instructions for a fresh sweet cherry pie as well as a pie using canned sour cherries (so sad! no fresh sours) so you'll be able to make cherry pie year round!
Grandfather Reyes' Final Banquet Cherry Pie
2 9" Pie Crusts (store bought is okay, but I don't really like the flavor pairing. Make this easy, flaky pie crust instead!)
3 Tbsp. Graham Cracker Crumbs
Egg White + 1 Tbsp. Water (to make an egg wash, or forego that & use ~1 Tbsp. Milk)
Turbinado Sugar (or granulated white is all right)
Fresh Sweet Cherry Pie Filling
4 Cups Fresh Sweet Cherries, pitted & de-stemmed
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tbsp. Corn Starch
Pinch of Salt
Tiny Pinch of Cinnamon (optional)
Canned Sour Cherry Pie Filling
2 Cans Sour Cherries in Water (make sure the cans only contains cherries & water! Nothing else!)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Tbsp. Corn Starch
Tiny Pinch of Cinnamon (optional)
9" Pie Pan (if using a foil pan, puncture a few tiny holes in the bottom)
Pie Shield (protects the pie crust during baking)
1. Fresh Sweet Cherry Pie Filling: In a large-medium pot stir together all of the ingredients until coated & let sit for 30 minutes. Cook on medium heat until the juices begin to boil & thicken. Remove from heat & prepare the pie crusts.
Canned Sour Cherry Pie Filling: Drain the cherries, reserving about 1 cup of the juice. In a medium pot on medium-high heat combine the juice, sugar, & cornstarch & bring the mixture to a boil until it thickens. Remove from heat & stir in the cherries along with the optional pinch of cinnamon & then prepare the pie crusts.
2. Pie Crusts: Preheat oven to 375ºF. Roll out one dough ball between two sheets of plastic wrap to about 1/8" or a tiny bit less (if using homemade crust dough–highly recommended!) & then place it in the bottom of your pie pan, doing your best to make sure there are no air bubbles under the dough. Spoon the graham cracker crumbs in & spread them around evenly & then pour in the cherry filling & spread that around evenly as well. Brush the edge of the crust with a little bit of water & then roll out the top layer of pie crust dough & gently place it on top, trimming away any crazy excess. Fold the edges of the top layer of dough under the bottom layer & then crimp them around how you'd like, or simply press with a fork.
3. Use the excess dough for any shapes or designs you'd like to put on top of the pie (optional. I used Wilton's little alphabet cutters) & then either poke holes all around the top with a toothpick (swirling it around to make the holes slightly larger) or cut out slits in the dough. In a small bowl whisk together the egg white & water to make an egg wash (or simply use a little milk). Brush it on the top & edges of the dough & then generously sprinkle on some turbinado sugar (or you can forgo the egg wash & sugar & simply sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the pie once it's baked & cooled). Slide the pie onto the middle rack of your oven & bake for about 40 minutes. Carefully place the pie shield around the crust (or strips of aluminum foil) & bake for another 15-20 mins. Remove the pie from the oven & let cool. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
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