When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie
It was two years ago this fall that my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t a surprise to those close to her. The signs had been there for a number of years previous.
For me, the change that was most significant was my mom’s decreasing interest in cooking. She had always been one to read through magazines and the newspaper, looking for those recipes that she wanted to experiment with and share with others. I was always happy to be a guinea pig for her and I truly loved my mom’s cooking. She is one of those people that has a knack for knowing what flavours go together. When my mom was no longer trying new recipes and was resorting to pre-prepared meals, I knew something was up.
The other thing that hinted to me that my mom’s mental capacity was changing was also related to cooking. My mom knew everyone’s favourite food and would do her best to cater to each family member’s preferences. She knew who liked green beans, who didn’t like fish; who would try new things and who preferred meat and potatoes. And she knew that my favourite pie was peach pie, made from fresh peaches. Once a year, when Canadian grown peaches made it to the supermarket, I knew I could count on my mom baking that one peach pie for me (of course I did have to share!).
Then about three years ago, the peaches were in the store and I was wondering out loud to my mom when she was going to make my pie. Without any apology or explanation, she simply said she wasn’t going to make one. To say I was devastated may seem like an overreaction, but I was. It wasn’t so much about not getting the pie. It was much more about what my mom’s cooking and baking meant to me. This was the way that I had experienced my mom’s expression of love. My mom didn’t say “I love you” with words. She said it by being so excited to have me taste test her new creation and by making that once-a-year pie. I felt a little like my mom was forgetting how to love me.
I have to say that I have been quite resentful that my mom never warned me when she last served me peach pie, that it would be the last one I would ever have made by her. If I’d have known, I wonder how much more I would have savoured it; remembered it; appreciated it. I tried for the last two peach seasons to jog my mom’s memory so that she could once again make me that pie. If I could have just had one more pie, it would have been the best pie I ever had.
So it’s been awhile since I’ve had peach pie. I’ve been convinced that no other pie could ever be as good as that last pie my mom never made. I knew no other pie could ever contain enough love to sustain me through my mom’s deteriorating memory and decreased attachment to me and the rest of her family.
But, this fall, when the peaches arrived in the produce department, I stopped. I picked one up and gave it a good smell. I decided I could make my own peach pie, damn it. I told my mom I had bought peaches and tried to get any recollection out of her that I could about how she prepared the pie but I got nothing. So, to the internet I went and discovered a recipe worth trying. The tables were turned and now my mom (and dad) were the guinea pigs for my creation. In my first mouthful, I knew it wasn’t right. It had the wrong texture and there was too much cinnamon but my parents loved it and had no tips to make it better. Back to the internet I went and found another recipe. This time I read it to my mom. As I read the ingredient list she said “Yeah, my pie had tapioca!” When I noted there was no cinnamon in this recipe, she replied “I never put cinnamon in my peach pie”.
So back to the kitchen I went. Today, I served my mom (and dad) a peach pie that tasted just like my mom’s. And even though the recipe didn’t call for it, I tried to include enough love in it to sustain me to the end. Thanks Mom, for teaching me that giving love is equally, if not more comforting than receiving love.