Mon brushed her shoes on the mat, turned the key in the back door and went into the kitchen. The flat was quiet, and there was only the faint, lingering smell of liver and bacon and the sweet clove of the apple pie. She took off her scarf and jacket and hung them up smiling to herself as she remembered the first apple pie. That had also been dessert after liver and bacon…
She changed her shoes… the first apple pie, they had been married only a few weeks, maybe a month or two, she couldn’t quite remember now. Don had cycled home from work as usual and put his bike in the lean-to before coming in the back way, into their bedsit. She had dinner ready for him because she would be going out this evening, for once he would be at home and she would be at the flicks with Daph.
She’d cooked liver and bacon because it was cheap and simple no doubt, but she had been given some cooking apples, and had decide to make an apple pie… without the first idea of what to do. Mother made the best pastry in the world, light, crisp, delicious – whether it was suet for a steak and kidney pudding, or the crisp pastry for a pie, or the meltingly soft and sweet case for a flan… Mother always said it was the easiest thing, and so Monica had found her ingredients, just flour and lard and water and poured them into a bowl.
She laughed now at her younger self, but sympathetically… what a chump! She should have realised it was never going to work as she tried to squeeze the sloppy mess into the pale soft dough Mother made… this was grey, mother’s was a creamy colour, and soft… Monica had added more flour and eventually after much kneading and pummeling she had a ball of something, a rather large and rather sticky ball, but none the less… Then she realised she had no rolling-pin. They’d received some lovely gifts for their wedding, some very generous gifts, but no-one had bought them a rolling-pin.
Should she just flatten it in the pie dish, just push it into shape? She looked round the tiny kitchen area… and inspiration struck. A milk bottle! perfect. She remembered mother strewing flour across the kitchen table to roll out her soft, light dough, and dusting it over the surface of the pastry ball and she did the same. The milk bottle worked well, but it seemed rather hard work; mother’s touch seemed feather light and with hardly any effort… Monica was having to really press down to flatten the dough.
She pressed it into the pie dish and then peeled, cored and sliced the apples, sprinkled them with sugar and a few cloves… but how long would it take to cook? She wanted it ready and perfect after they had eaten their liver and bacon. If only their landlady Mrs Gunter was more pleasant, more friendly and helpful, she could have asked her…
Monica reasoned that the pastry was quite solid and the filling quite deep so it may take longer than she imagined… and hour maybe? She would put it in the little oven beneath the two gas rings at five – Donald would be home at six, and dinner would be ready, she could always turn the oven off and the pie would keep warm while they ate dinner.
Mon felt sorry for her younger self, newly-married Monica was so clueless! She smiled at the memory… she had proudly brought the pie from the oven… the room had been full of the aroma of cloves, she thought she’d only added a few, but maybe it was a few too many. Donald had enjoyed the liver, a little under-cooked for her taste but he liked it slightly pink, and he had said the gravy was wonderful. She had made custard which wasn’t too lumpy, got the bowls out, and now she opened the oven door and took out the pie.
It was a little burnt but Donald said it looked splendid and he liked it like that! She took her knife to cut it… the pastry was like stone… Donald offered to serve and she passed him the knife and spoon… she could tell he was pretending it wasn’t a rock hard as it actually was, and he said it smelt so enticing… but as he levered out a slice it was clear that despite the out singeing, the inside of the pastry – which she could now see was far too thick – the inside of the pastry was the grey putty it had been before it went into the oven. The apples had somehow cooked, steamed maybe…
“I’m sure it will be delicious!” Donald exclaimed and poured rather a lot of custard over his tiny slice.
“I have to say, Welly,” he said pushing his dish away. “That is the worst pie I have ever tasted, the pastry is awful, darling!”
Despite it being true, and despite his endearment, she was uncharacteristically upset and annoyed.
“Well, next time Donald, you can make the pastry yourself!” she stood up and took off her pinny. “I’m meeting Daph on the bridge and then we’re going to the cinema… I will see you later, enjoy the washing up!”
He always cleared the table and did the washing up anyway… he jumped up and gave her a kiss and she gave him an angry peck on the cheek before putting on her coat and head scarf.
He could see she was upset and told her to enjoy herself and give his love to Daph… and she left the little flat. She was cross, cross with herself, because actually she had known the pastry was nothing like mother’s, known it had all gone wrong… Why hadn’t she helped mother more, why hadn’t she learned to cook…
She and Daph laughed a great deal about the whole pie affair, and as usual her dear friend cheered her up, so when she leaned her bike against Donald’s in the lean-to in the back yard, she was ready to go in and have a joke with him over the disaster…
Donald greeted on the back doorstep her with open arms and a big kiss, his so blue eyes bright and sparkling and mischievous. He’d been waiting for her to come home, and led her into their tiny room.
On the table was a beautiful, aromatic pie, it was perfect with crimped edges, and some decoration round the top. They were both laughing and she looked at the golden pastry, sparkling with a dusting of sugar. sugar. In the middle was a heart, and the decoration was pastry writing, Don loves Mon xxx
© Lois Elsden 2019
…and here is the story behind this true story
My featured image is of my apple and custard pie… my pastry isn’t bad, but not nearly as good as my mum Monica’s was. She became the best pastry cook ever, even better than my dad Donald – and he, as you can tell from the story was pretty good!!