Growing up as a city kid, I lived on dreams of life on a farm. Those farm kids were the luckiest. They had everything!
Not until my thirties did I have a chance to learn about farm life from an expert. Pauline, my co-teacher, had grown up on the picture-perfect Iowa farm. Her strawberry blond hair was set in tight curls that bounced when she laughed. And she was always laughing.
I loved to hear about cows covered in snow and five brothers always up to mischief. But the best talk of all was food talk. Her mother was the proverbial “best cook.” We always looked forward to Mom's treats arriving with Pauline on Monday mornings.
Pauline had had it all, living on a farm. But, I soon learned that the trick of having it all was figuring out how to do without when you didn't have it all. Living miles away from town, if you ran out of buttermilk, it was no quick trip to the store.
Smart cooks knew how to grab a lemon and squirt it into milk. Or if no lemon was on hand … then vinegar. If no vinegar, then cream of tartar. And if no tartar, well, maybe there would be a box of yogurt tucked in the back of the refrigerator.
It turned out that the best farm cooks knew how to make everything out of anything. If you didn't have it, then find something else and substitute. There seemed to be no end to what Pauline's mom could create. “Yeah,” Pauline laughed. “She can even make apple pie without the apples!”
Apple pie without apples? Pauline shared the secret with me over 20 years ago. And I still can't believe it possible. Mock Apple Pie made with Ritz Crackers.
Sure, I love Ritz Crackers. The commercials are right, “Everything tastes good on a Ritz.” But I would never grab a Ritz when I had a craving for an apple.
But, yes, there it is. Online at AllRecipes, there they are recipes of crackers, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Apple pie?
Now I can truly understand how a lot of sugar and cinnamon held together by wet crackers and baked hot on a cold winter night could taste good in the middle of Iowa. And I can truly understand how a mother could dream up a quick answer for six children, when Dad asks, “What is this?”
Mom could tell them the truth, “These are cracker crumbs buried in sugar … Cracker Pie.” And the kids would still probably eat Cracker Pie. But oh, the creativity of that brilliant farm mother who looked at the row of eyes staring up at her and elevated the simple cracker. Maybe her strawberry blond curls bounced and most likely her eyes twinkled as she answered Dad. “This is Mock Apple Pie.”
Recipes give us what we want. And no matter how close to apples one gets with 30 round crackers, if I want an apple pie, I will make it with apples.
Substitutes are good when we need them. But they are still substitutes. A serving of five-star Mock Apple Pie has 503 calories, 24 grams of fat, and 448 mg of salt. That is a poor substitute for 255 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 132 mg of salt contained in a hot steaming slice of five-star real apple pie.
Substitutes may be just what we need to make it through the tough times. But if we want a recipe for success, the best way to get apple pie is to buy apples.
Another Father's Day is here. I think of how important my own father was in shaping our home. I am grateful for my husband's part in guiding our children through the hard times and laughing with them in the crazy times.
Most of all, I pray for my son and daughter, that they will value the role of a father enough to build their own families with Dad in the recipe. There is no substitute like the real thing.
Happy Father's Day!
(A former elementary school teacher, Jane Jimenez is now a freelance writer dedicated to issues of importance to women and the family. She writes a regular column titled “From the Home Front.” Her work has appeared in both Christian and secular publications. Jane and her husband Victor live in Phoenix and have two children. This article courtesy of Agape Press).