Breaking Bread: Father-in-law stays a pie lover to the end
Our Father’s Day dinner table will be one short this year.
My father-in-law passed away on Memorial Day. His death, at age 88, followed a long, well-lived life.
I married his youngest son 15 years ago, yet I struggle to remember a time without my “other” dad.
My father-in-law was, by no means, a gourmet.
He’s the only man I’ve ever seen sit down at fine-dining restaurant and order filet mignon with ketchup on the side.
But Dad was a great eater who feasted with gusto on his favorite all-American fare: Grilled hamburgers with potato salad and baked beans, roast turkey with all the trimmings, barbecued spareribs, roast beef with mashed potatoes, and sausage sandwiches.
For many years, Sunday dinners with my parents and in-laws were a weekly fixture at my house.
My father-in-law always enjoyed my cooking and told me so often.
His only criticism came when he thought there was too much food.
“Oh, bless me, Father,” he would exclaim, mocking the opening lines of the Roman Catholic rite of reconciliation, suggesting that somehow the bounty was sinful.
He used the refrain often whenever I explained that he had his choice of cake, pie or ice cream for dessert (in my family, there’s no such thing as a Sunday dinner with just one dessert).
“Oh, bless me, Father,” he would reply, before selecting the pie, with ice cream on the side — and, if there was any cake left, he wouldn’t mind taking a piece home “for later.”
He loved pie, particularly coconut cream and, his favorite, strawberry-rhubarb.
Near the end, Dad’s days were divided between hospital and nursing-home stays, where the goal was always to eat enough to regain his strength so he could go home. But the cancer overtaking his body made that impossible.
Dad still talked about food and what he would enjoy eating, but no matter what was put in front of him, no more than a few bites ever made it beyond his lips.
I considered it a great victory when, a few weeks before he died, I was able to feed him an entire slice of coconut-cream pie, even though the piece was about a third the size of what he normally would have eaten.
When he passed, my husband and I ordered a variety of pies to be served at the luncheon after his funeral.
All the standards were there: Apple, cherry and berry, and, of course, strawberry-rhubarb.
Dad would have loved it and would have been especially happy that enough remained for him to take a piece home “for later.”
With Father’s Day this weekend, I’ll make this pie so we can raise our forks in his honor.
Makes 8 servings
2½ cups diced rhubarb
2½ cups sliced strawberries
1¼ cups sugar (more if the rhubarb is particularly tart)
¼ cup Minute tapioca
1 tablespoon corn starch
¼ teaspoon salt
Pastry for 9-inch double-crust pie
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the tapioca is well-distributed.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with half of the crust.
Fill pie shell with fruit filling. Dot with butter.
Top with remaining pastry. Fold edges under to seal, then crimp or flute as desired.
Using a fork or the tip of a pointed knife, poke vent holes into top crust.
Bake at 400 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until filling appears thick when bubbling up through vent holes. Cover crust with foil if it is getting too brown before filling is done.
Cool pie on wire rack to room temperature, then cool completely in refrigerator.
PER SERVING: 385 calories, 3 g protein, 65 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 34 g sugars, 15 g fat (6 saturated), 9 mg cholesterol, 332 mg sodium
— Lisa Abraham writes about food for The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @DispatchKitchen.