when life gets in the way, and a recipe: apple and pear pie

My week was wrapping up so nicely. My two-week stretch of being on call was coming to a rapid end. I was planning a celebratory dinner at my home for my team of hardworking students, residents, and fellows. I was the subject of a lovely interview on the kitchen generation, a beautiful blog written by a group of five รผber-talented young bloggers. It was announced that my recipes, along with those of several bloggers whose work I admire, were to be included on Gojee, a recipe sourcing site for the photographically-inclined. And finally, I held in my hands the print copy of my homage to Southern food, published in the Florida Times-Union newspaper.

It was turning out to be a pretty great week.

And then I got a text from my mom on Thursday morning, shortly after starting my hospital rounds.

“I’m calling 911 now,” read her text.

My dad had fallen backwards in his recliner the day before and bumped his head on the hard tile floor in my parents’ living room. The bump on the head might have been no big deal, but he was on Coumadin, a blood thinner. Shortly after the fall, he developed a severe headache, one that wouldn’t go away despite the multiple Tylenol tablets he took for it. The nausea and vomiting started soon after. He became confused. Then he wound up in an ambulance, and next, the emergency room at my hospital. A CT scan of his brain and blood work followed. The diagnosis was a subdural hematoma, bleeding on the brain. And this diagnosis bought him a stay in the neurosurgical intensive care unit.

Things are looking up, though. He was transferred to a regular floor room on Sunday. The word from the physical therapist is that he’ll go to a rehabilitation center after his discharge from the hospital, something that my mom and I think he desperately needs. My children visited him yesterday, and though they hesitated slightly when they saw the various tubes and electrical leads adorning his weakened body, they gave him big bear hugs around the neck.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

And I made a pie.

I’ve been waking up with pie on my mind, and I really, really needed to bake something. I made an all-butter pie crust dough last weekend, maybe because I knew I’d have Sunday morning to put it to good use. As I rolled the buttery dough into a flat circle, I thought about my dad and how his life – and my mom’s life – might be different after this past week. I was getting angry and frustrated, and I think the pie dough felt it. It fought my efforts, tearing around the edges, not behaving as I wanted it to. I gathered the torn pieces, balled them up, and decided to roll the pastry dough out again rather than start over.

As someone special told me yesterday on Facebook, “Relax. That’s why it’s not working. Pie crust senses your fear.”

I cleared my mind, relaxed, and rolled it out again, slowly and methodically. It worked beautifully.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

Sand pears? Pineapple pears? I just call them backyard pears.

The filling was a combination of some Gala apples we had in the refrigerator and some of the green and brown speckled pears you see above. A friend of my husband gave us a huge bag of these pears. I thought a pie would be a wonderful way to honor that lovely fruit.

We’re starting our week with this apple and pear pie. I’m starting the week with a more clear mind. I think I’m ready for what these next days have in store.

I can do this.

apple and pear pie | the merry gourmet

Yield: 8 servings.

Cook Time: 1 hour

Apple and Pear Pie

I used pears common to the north Florida region. I think of them as backyard pears, since I grew up with this type of pear tree in our backyard. You can use Bartlett or Bosc or any other type available in your local market.

Ingredients:

1 pound apples (such as Gala, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Double 9-inch pie crust, ready-made or made from scratch

Directions:

    1. Adjust an oven rack to lowest position and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

    2. In a large bowl, gently toss the apples and pears with the sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and zest, spices, and salt. Set aside for 15-30 minutes.

    3. Roll out the bottom crust of the pie dough into a 12-inch circle and carefully fit into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Spread the apples and pears in the bottom of the unbaked pie crust in the pie plate. Roll the top crust into a 12-inch circle and place carefully over the pie plate, centered over the filling. Seal and crimp the edges of the pie crust and cut four vents into the top of the crust.

    4. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden brown and juices of the fruit are bubbling. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

The baking method - starting the pie at 500 degrees, and reducing the temperature through the baking process - comes from the Classic Apple Pie recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

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31 Responses to “saying goodbyes, and a recipe: peach cobbler bars”

  1. Macaroni Mama — August 23, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

    Oh, my God. What a beautifully written post. Now I want to eat the peach dessert. God has raised you, not me or your father. Your compassion, your anguish at such an early age… Girly, I love you.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      Oh, Mom. I love you, too.

  2. Kedra Mello — August 24, 2013 @ 5:36 am

    What a beautiful story. Your love and compassion for people is wonderful. Good bye’s are hard but don’t you feel so fortunate to have made such a big difference in someone’s life and they love you for it. Keep up the wonderful work.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      Thank you, Kedra.

  3. Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks — August 24, 2013 @ 8:14 am

    As always, such beautiful writing. I will bake these peach cobbler bars this weekend. Can’t wait ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

      Thanks so much, Carlinne.

  4. Merry Jennifer, what a beautiful post. It’s clear that you are in your profession because you’re meant to be there. It must be amazing to watch you work. Your beautiful heart must be such a balm in painful moments, I’m sure of it. You’ve been through so many goodbyes this year. It speaks volumes that you’re able to find the beauty in the sorrow.

    It took me a while to realize why goodbyes hurt so much for me, especially with my grandparents. And then I realized it was because they loved me SO well, that my pain was equal to their love. There was something very balancing about that realization – I accepted the pain then, because it was a way to say thank you for loving me so well. And then it was easier to move on, and simply relish each memory.

    I hope that each day brings a little less pain, and a little more love to embrace.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

      Thank you so much, Amber. And I think you’re right about the level of hurt equaling the level of love.

  5. Jennifer Annan House — August 24, 2013 @ 11:31 am

    Merry, such a beautiful post. Thank you for writing it. I’m sure each of us will reflect on what you’re written. And some of us will make the peach cobbler bars. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

      Thanks for reading, Jennifer!

  6. Paula — August 24, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    Each of us has many gifts but not all of us use them for the betterment of others. Your writing and your chosen profession, just to name two have been a source of grace for more people than you can ever imagine.
    Final goodbyes are so important and when we come to terms with knowing it will take place we understand it is the acceptance that will light the passage with peace for our loved ones.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

      Paula, thank you for that. (I always love your comments, you know.)

  7. Heather — August 24, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

    While I might have stumbled upon your blog a few years ago because of the food (and I do love the recipes you post), I continue to come back for your beautifully written post–this one being no exception.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 24th, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

      Oh, I’m SO glad to hear that, Heather. Thank you for reading!

  8. jacquie — August 24, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    a beautiful and poignant post. Thank you.

  9. Lynda - TasteFood — August 24, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

    Beautiful and thank you.

  10. cherie — August 24, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

    I am so grateful there are people like you in the world

  11. Eileen — August 24, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

    You are not the only one who feared fire as a child. My fear started after watching a small airstream camper burn up when I was about 4 years old. At the time we lived in a single wide trailer and I associated it with the camper. From there after, I worried in the same ways that you did about fire and loss. Yes, even making contingency plans – just in case.

    It wasn’t until my mom was dying of cancer that I finally realized that it would be very selfish of me not to give her permission to pass on to the next phase in her life; death.

    I came to understand that there are worse things in life than dying. Suffering from an incurable illness being one of them.

    BTW – I made a peach cobbler recipe this summer from Southern Living too. I did a little (to much) modifying of the recipe and I should have left well enough alone because I needed a chain saw to cut it!

  12. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — August 25, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    Merry-Jennifer, your writing always moves me and this post is certainly no exception. What a blessing you must be in the lives of your patients. That kind of caring and compassion is rare indeed.

  13. Kathryn — August 25, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    So beautiful. You truly are a gem.

  14. Deb — August 25, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    I always read your tasty posts and devour them with as much gusto as your tempting recipes! This post is especially vibrant and full of life.

  15. Karen Waddell — August 25, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

    I recently found your blog and thought I would enjoy the recipes, and I do, however I have received so much more. Thank you for your beautifully written posts.

  16. Kate — August 25, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

    Merry – This is wonderful with or without the recipe. I’m so humbled by your ability to keep saying goodbye and to do it with grace like this. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Christina @ It's a Keeper — August 26, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

    This was such a touching story. Your compassion and caring nature are a true gift.

  18. Sharmila — August 28, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    This was such a lovely post to read, one that hit close to home for me. Very sorry to hear about your patient. It’s wonderful she had a doctor like you to understand and care for her.
    I used to do what you did with the stuffed animals, only for me they were guardians to keep at bay anything that might come my way at night. They would fight fire and monsters for me. I was also equally terrified when my dad travelled (and he travelled a lot for work), worried that the plane would crash, that he might meet some monsters, that I would never see him again. The fact that he always came back didn’t lessen my fears. But the fact that good-bye would always become hello did calm me down after a while.
    My dad has dementia now, and is here but not really. There will be no opportunity to say good bye in any comprehensive way. I wish more than anything that he’d just look at me and say hello, the way he always did when he got back. But still I will always be grateful for all those times he did come back safely. I’m trying to focus on the good times.

  19. Laura — August 28, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

    Beautiful post–you always have such a way with words! And the peach cobbler bars look amazing too.

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  21. Di — August 29, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

    Hauntingly sweet, genuine, touching, and worth the wait. As always thank you for sharing so much of yourself here with us.

  22. Teresa Blackburn — September 1, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    I am so happy to have found your blog. The story you have written is so wonderful and sad at the same time. Bittersweet! My blogging friend, Charles, over at The Local Forkful…another Nashville Blogger along with me…mentioned your site and I am so glad he did. I just signed up. Best, Teresa

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