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Waiting For Apple Pie

When I used to lead fall leaf peeper tours around New England, we’d always stop at a place called The Apple Barn in Bennington, Vermont.

This place has a giant orchard boasting an impressive variety of apples, but the real deal at the Apple Barn is the apple pie.

They have, without a doubt, the best apple pie I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what makes it so good—the perfect, flaky crust? The perfectly spiced sweet filling?—but whatever it is, I am always willing to suffer through the repercussions of going off my gluten free diet to have a slice. I decided a few years ago that I wasn’t going to go through the rest of my days on earth without having a piece of that pie again.

Nobody should be asked to do that.

Last fall, we happened to be in Bennington, Vt., visiting family and we went and bought an apple pie at he Apple Barn and we felt like we had a piece of gold sitting on our counter. We drove it home in our car like we had the queen in the backseat.

“Don’t brake so fast!” I kept telling my husband.

A few mornings, I crept downstairs before the sun came up and had a piece, sitting at the island in the dark. It’s the kind of treat you think about all day—that shiny white box on the counter. I’ve found I feel less guilty about the sunrise feasts if I grab just a little forkful here and there the rest of the day and refrain from eating the whole thing.

The interesting thing is that every fall, the folks at the Apple Barn fly up a guy named Gilroy from Jamaica to make the pies. He stays in Bennington for the season, whipping out apple pies all day and everyday. I’m not really sure why this Jamaican man is a premier pie maker but he’s been making pies there for more than a decade.

So, being the inquisitive person that I am, I called the Apple Barn to ask them about their Jamaican friend and hoped they’d share a secret or two about what makes their pies so good.

“We make them with a lot of love,” the owner told me about her pies, but that’s all she would say. And she wouldn’t let me interview Gilroy either. I guess I don’t really blame her. What if someone offered him double the salary to come make pies at their own barn? She’s protecting her pie maker like she’s guarding the code to our country’s nuclear arsenal.

The thing about apple pies is that making one comes loaded with all sorts of symbolism. So American! So quaint! So down to earth! So fun! We’re using real apples ad not canned! And because of this, all sorts of people are attracted to the apple-pie-making endeavor.

Both my father and my husband have made apple pies–both people who never thought about making pies in their life until apple season came around.

People think just because they’re making an apple pie that it will come together perfectly just because they’ve decided to make one. But the thing is, apple pie needs the same sort of skill and experience as any other baking endeavor.

But nonetheless, folks like my husband set out with homemade crust recipes and good intentions and a whole Saturday afternoon spread out before them. And before the day’s over, they find themselves at the grocery store looking for frozen pie crusts and a can of apple pie filling.

It’s not easy—this apple pie thing.

Despite the Apple Barn lady not sharing any good secrets with me, I found some good recipes on the internet that usually start out something like this:

“This was my grandmother’s apple pie recipe. I have never tasted another one quite like it. It will always be my favorite and has won me several first place prizes in local competitions. I hope it becomes one of your favorites as well!”

Then, of course, there’s a picture of the pie looking like it just walked off the shelf in Martha Stewart’s kitchen.

Well, I’m never going to make a pie like that. That ship has already sailed.

But that’s why there’s places like the Apple Barn and people like Gilroy from Jamaica. They teach us what good apple pies are supposed to taste like.

We’ve decided to give it another go anyway. Just for the fun of it. In a month or two, we’ll be dusting off our rolling pin.

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