That's likely the picture that pushed women out of the kitchen for years, for fear they'd be chained to the stove. Even today, women in the workplace resist being associated with the domestic arts because it threatens their career. My friend Marti, an engineer who has returned to school, worked in a male-dominated environment. She told me she'd never bring cookies to work or the guys just wouldn't take her seriously.
I want to be taken as seriously as anyone else does, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of baking. I confess I'm a bit like the character Ramona in Beverly Cleary's book series, with my mind taking flights of fancy when I get caught up in something. Stirring dough, I imagine myself a pioneer woman, toiling away in a rustic kitchen. Never mind my ingredients would be considered extravagant in pioneer days. The smell of chocolate, brown sugar and vanilla wafting through the house is a time machine back to a time when food was simple and food was life.
Baking definitely brings satisfaction, but serving up the goods is just as fulfilling. I used to work in the X-ray office of a hospital. No one was particularly happy about dragging themselves into work on weekends and holidays, but a treat like warm chocolate hunk cookies lit up everyone's faces. And honestly, it made me feel special to be able to make people feel good.
Maybe that's what happened to Kimmer, who's been my buddy for more years than either of us care to announce. I knew her back in the days when the tiny little twig's culinary skills amounted to Taco Bell and ramen noodles. Then one day, completely out of the blue, she began baking the world's best pies. It's like a genie appeared and, poof! Turned her into a domestic diva. Now she gets special requests to bake her legendary pies, even for events she won't be attending.
The difference between now and the era of the housewife's magic wand, is that women aren't the only ones in the kitchen. When our schedules actually coincide, David and I like cooking together. A couple of months ago we found ourselves tripping down memory lane as he flipped through his cookbooks and found lists, notes and recipes in my handwriting. (I'm better at list-making; he's better at cooking. It works for us.)
Kimmer may have blossomed into the queen of pies (read her pie-making tips, below) but she's not stuck alone in the kitchen. I've seen her and her hubby cooking side by side. Kudos to the men who can cook and still be manly. We've all come a long way, baby!
This is a version of a great recipe Diane has posted on her beautiful blog at:
Recipe: Tart cherry pie
2, 12-oz. bags frozen tart cherries, pitted (about 5 1/2 cups, Michigan cherries are perfect)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon quick tapioca
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup sugar (to taste, use less for sweet cherries)
Drop of almond extract
Drop of vanilla
Optional: few drops of lemon juice (especially if you're using sweet cherries instead of tart)
2 refrigerated rolled pie crusts (take each one out of refrigerator about 10-15 minutes before using)
Small amount butter
Small amount flour
Small amount sugar
Small amount turbinado sugar
1 egg white, beaten with a drop of vanilla or lemon juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put the frozen cherries in a bowl. Gently toss with the tapioca, 1 1/4 cup sugar, salt, extracts and (optional) lemon juice. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Lightly butter just the bottom of a large glass pie plate. Sift a very thin layer of flour over the butter before putting the bottom crust in the pan (tip: leave the crust refrigerated until about 5 minutes before you're ready to use it). After the cherry mixture has set for 30 minutes, turn it into the pie crust-lined plate.
Stir together equal amounts of sugar and flour and sift a very light layer over the underside of the top crust before putting it on top of the cherries. Pinch the top and bottom crust together all the way around with your knuckles to seal them together and form a fluted edge. Put a pie ring or strips of foil around the edge of the crust and place it on top of another pan to catch any juices.
Bake at 400 degrees 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake another 40-50 minutes. Remove ring; brush with beaten egg white and sift a very thin layer of the sugar-flour mixture over the top. Sprinkle a little turbinado sugar on if you have it. Bake another 10-15 minutes, until top is deep golden brown and inside is bubbly (either the juice will bubble out or you'll see the crust puffing up). Let set 3-4 hours; serve with vanilla ice cream.
Note: I started fluting the bottom crust, but when you're adding a top crust, just wait until it's in place, since you'll pinch them together and flute them anyway.