Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Don't sit under the old pear tree.....

I know, I know.

The song is supposed to go: "Don't sit under the APPLE tree with anyone else but me."

But growing up, the only apple tree in the yard was a dwarf Jonathon, & not even the dog would fit under it to sit comfortably.

We did, however, have a 100 foot tall Bartlett pear tree smack in the middle of the back yard.

Ok, it was probably only 30 feet at its tippy top, but when you are a very small child (who grew into a petite adult), it certainly seemed gigantic!

I loved that tree.

In Spring, it would burst forth with spicy white blossoms. I would tear off a small branch every year & smuggle it up to my room to breathe in the perfume.

In Summer, I would climb up & sit in the lower branches. I was a tom-boy wanna be. Afraid of heights. And always scraping my knees. The pear tree had a branch just low enough for me to scoot up without a problem. I would also spread out my blankie underneath its shade & have picnics with Pooh Bear. Pretend picnics, with delicious invisible tea.

And in Fall, that pear tree would be laden with the most beautiful, wonderful, fabulous pears in the entire world. Golden yellow, full of juice, & sweetened by the summer sun. In good years, there were thousands of them. (Remember, I thought the tree was 100 feet tall too!) Oh, it was the BEST time of the year! Pears everywhere! The tree would drop them just as they ripened, so the challenge was to find the perfect pear just after it fell, race inside to wash it off, & cut it into halves to eat.

You never, ever picked a pear straight off the ground & bit in.

Nope.

We were an "organic" family before it was cool. And you could bet that the majority of pears had been sampled at least a tiny bit by something that YOU didn't want to sample in return. You know that old joke: What's worse than finding a worm in your pear? Finding half a worm.

Ew.

Traditionally, the pear harvest started in late August & lasted until the first frost. We had pears for weeks.

And weeks.

And weeks.

As the youngest, it was my job to pick up the fallen pears every day. When they first started, it was a joy. I would skip along (really, I would) with my little basket, carefully picking the pears up by the stem, checking for damage, & gently placing them in the ever growing pile. I would sort them as instructed: green, turning, yellow, bruised & worm-holed. This was an important role. You couldn't mix up the stages. Being borderline OCD, I was perfect for the job.

As Fall turned out in her full glory, the job became more of a challenge. Soon you had to fight the yellow jackets for the pears. I only got stung once. But I got that pear. I remember singing that "Bringing Home a Baby Bumblee" song with my revised lyrics every year. And there were ants. If you were good, you could shake each & every one off with a single flick.

Let me tell you, I was good!

And for all my hard work, I got pears. Lots of pears. Pears for breakfast, pears for lunch, pears for dinner.

Mom would peel & can quarts & quarts of pears.

She would cook them up, run them through the Foley Food Mill (long before we had food processors, we had our Foley!) and make pear sauce.

We would give bagfuls to the neighbors (my job again, pulling the little red wagon up & down the block), & deliver them to the kitchen at church.

But not once did my mom ever think to put those pears into a pie.

Not once.

I grew up, moved out to the country, & had a yard full of glorious, old oaks.

Oh, how I missed that pear tree!

But every year, I would receive bags & bags of pears.

More than even I could eat.

So one day, I set out on a mission. Sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, I searched cookbook after cookbook for a pear pie recipe. (Oh, the sad days before Google!)

I found....one. One single recipe. One lonely little recipe.

For Fresh Pear Crumble Pie

And it looked delicious. I embellished, of course, adding extra cinnamon & ginger. Lots of ginger. And I used my Pastry Pie Crust recipe.

Perfection.

The house smelled wonderful.

It became a Fall tradition, that pie. I took it to gatherings, I made it for Thanksgiving, I made it for no reason at all except to savor those wonderful pears.

And the reaction was always the same. No one had ever thought to make a pear pie.

I'm glad I did.

The tree from my back yard was cut down oh so many years ago. I am forced to beg for pears, or buy them at the grocery store in a pinch. No pears will ever match the ones from my memories.

But at least I don't have to fight the hornets anymore!

7 comments:

Tsquared said...

Dang. That was GOOD.

Jinx said...

You should taste the pie!!

Maven said...

I echo T Squared - that was GOOD! I loved it from start to finish. Now I when I try your pear pie recipe, and everytime I bake it afterward, I will think of you pulling that little red wagon.

This was a wonderful way to get to know you better and connect to my own memories. For me it was a weeping willow tree in my auntie Bev's yard. I hope one day to have a weeping willow of my own.

May I link my blog to this? I don't have a ton of readers, but I would love for more people to read this. Some of my friends and family would really enjoy it.

Jinx said...

I really appreciate your kind words! Of course you may link this!

My daughter is getting a kick out of reading the memories here too; those "little things you didn't know about mom" bits.

But remember to picture my scrapped up knees when you picture my little red wagon!

And now you have me remembering the weeping willows down at the river that I used to swing on!

Kim said...

I've loved reading this. Childhood was just the perfect time in life.

My childhood tree was an old pink dogwood in my grandma's yard. It was far enough from the house that it seemed like an adventure just getting there. My cousin and I would climb up and sit for hours it seemed. Last month, I told my sis that I wanted a tree to grow big and strong so that the "girls" (great nieces) could come to Aunt Kimmy's and climb.

I LOVE pears...but I don't know that I could make a pie. Maybe I'll give that a go too one weekend.

HUGS, beautiful friend of mine!

Maven said...

I'm going to link to this as my favourite blog for the week. I started that last Tuesday with three links, but I think I'm only going to do one from now on and yours is it!

Jinx said...

Kim & Maven, I am SO glad both of you are here. I'm really enjoying reliving the happier memories.

Funny how a lot of them revolve around food!

Hugs to you both!