Three minutes into moving the two knives across the bowl opposite each other, cutting effortlessly through two and a half cups of flour, my arms begin to tire. The flour still looks like flour and the butter still looks like smaller slivers of butter. It's always at this point I ask myself about that pastry knife or tool to which the recipe refers. My mind conjures the picture of a wire tool shaped like a half moon with a grip for your hand and then I'm trying to decide if our ancestors made pie crust with two knives or was the pastry tool actually the original and our dinner knives a sloppy second. By the time my mind has weighed the choices, I have pea-like flour granules waiting for 1/2 cup plus of very cold water.
The flour always takes more than just a half cup of cold water, crumbles of butter coated flour that need more encouragement to join the firmly round ball centered in my mixing bowl. More questions follow. Why cold water? Did Caroline Ingalls have cold water? Did my great-grandmother? Still, I have a healthy respect for crumbly pie crust and place the measuring cup beneath the spicket that provides cold, filtered water from my fridge. Too much water and I make a flat flour stone; not enough flour and I will not be able to flatten the two disks into two nine inch circles. Instead, I will fight with crumbs and pieces. Soon, I leave the spoon with which I stir on the counter and place my hands in the bowl, scooping up the floured-butter crumbs and pressing them into their neighbors. Where my fingers feel dry powder, I add a few more drops of water.
The best pie crusts sleep overnight in the coolness of the refrigerator, and its the next day before I know if the science has worked., before the rolling pin meets the two disks of flour, butter and water and flattens them into paper-thin round circles, ready to hold today's fruit filling.
I guess we could compare this process to raising children, taking the best of the past, respecting its traditions and wisdom and sprinkling it with the knowledge of today as it has learned from yesterday's failures.
If you live on both sides of the fence like so many parents do, where you still know and expect the golden growth but recognize the underbelly of death, I suppose you can compare it to living with Grief. There's the tiresome monotony of going back and forth across your loss and the pain of grieving for her yet another day. You appreciate the steadfastness of faithful friends, of a good God, of the opportunity to serve, of a promise of grace, but the questions are relentless and even a moment of joy leaves pieces of you lying separated from the rest of you. And you won't know until morning, if you are really going to be able to stick with it and spread yourself out to bear fruit.