Fresh Strawberry Pie and Loss

Loss is a part of life. A lesson most of us are taught from a youngish age, but one we don’t really learn until it happens. My mother passed away 30 years ago and it could have been 30 minutes ago. One of my closest friends, a friend of some nearly 30 yearsimg_2836.jpg, was given an ultimatum about our friendship and he chose other than the friendship. My soul sister beloved friend passed away just over two years ago. And now another most cherished friend has passed just a few days ago.

I’m an introvert. A bona fide INFJ. As such, I choose for quality, not quantity when it comes to people. Each loss is a chunk falling off of me that leaves a space that can’t be filled. As I write this, I wonder if this is how I will journey to my end, more and more pieces falling away until there’s just a skeleton and a heartbeat.

Loss is an abyss. There’s no telling how long that sense of freefall will last (I think it lasts forever) or for how long we will continue to compose texts or intend to call, share, tell before gasping with renewed understanding. The permanence is the thing that most takes my breath away. You cannot understand “gone for good” until you live it, one day at a time. When people ask if it gets easier, I always say no. The depth of pain remains the same, I just get stronger in carrying it.

That said, I’m not a good griever. Or at least not a cinematic one. Tears come in bursts, there’s some sleeping, and staring out windows for what turns out to be long periods of time. But the raging, wracking grief processing that’s indistinguishable from birth, I don’t do that. Maybe once, when my mom died, for about an hour.

No, I get knocked out of my shoes and keep walking. Not saying it’s healthy. Just saying it’s what I do. And most often, I walk into the kitchen.

IMG_5411Numb, pulling out butter and eggs, collecting measuring spoons and cups, gathering bowls. I most often make Finnish Pulla, a sweet coffee bread my mom made. I know it by heart and it offers all the good soothing yeasty, kneading qualities. It tastes like home when “home” feels unmoored.

Next I will make something that reminds me of the person I’ve lost: Something I know they enjoyed or something I’ve made for them that they loved. Preparing food for someone who is gone is the best way I’ve found to bring them back. I can talk to them. Remember them. Love them. Eat with them again.

It helps.

Maria’s Favorite Fresh Strawberry Pie

This pie is bright, beautiful and super happy, just like my friend, who loved it and IMG_5433marveled how something so easy could be so, so good. Farm fresh strawberry season is fleeting, like good memories, and fresh berries are what you want here, so hit the farmer’s market (as Maria did weekly) to get the freshest you can find.

PREPARATION

Two quarts farm fresh strawberries, picked over with the prettiest berries set aside (about 12-14 berries).

9-inch pie pan

Crust:

  • 10 oz finely crushed Walkers or Lorna Doone shortbread cookies
  • 6 Tbs melted butter
  • 1Tbs sugar

Combine crushed cookies, butter and sugar in a bowl and toss with a fork or your hands until well combined. Press mixture evenly into bottom and sides of pie pan. Freeze crust for at least 30 minutes.

Filling:

  • ½ – ¾ c sugar (to taste depending on berry sweetness)
  • 3 Tbs cornstarch
  • 3 c diced strawberries
  • 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mash strawberries with a potato masher until goopy. Whisk in the sugar/cornstarch and lemon juice. Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Let cook 2-3 minutes until thickened and jammy. Give it a couple of stirs, remove from heat, and pour into bowl to cool to room temperature.

Pour the cooled filling into the prepared pie shell and chill for at least 2 hours to fully set.

Serving:

  • ¼ c strawberry preserves, melted and strained
  • 12-14 reserved strawberries, cored and sliced in half
  • Freshly whipped cream

IMG_5432Arrange berries, cut side down, over the pie filling, pressing down lightly so the edges submerge a bit. With a pastry brush, lightly dab the berries with the melted preserves to glaze.

IMG_5435Serve immediately with fresh whipped cream on the side. Should you have any leftovers, the pie keeps 1-2 days, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. But, between dessert and breakfast servings, you’ll finish it within 24 hours.

NOTE: This recipe works equally well with fresh peaches. With peaches, I use turbinado sugar and a pinch of cinnamon plus a graham cracker crust.

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