Applied Art 101 (How I learned about life from a pie)
Lori Hope Baumel
Originally appeared in Around Wellington Magazine on November 1, 2013
“I shall pass through this world but once.
Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Applied art is the application of aesthetics and design to objects of function and everyday use, whereas, fine arts serve as intellectual stimulation to the viewer and is often produced or intended primarily for beauty.
According to the Dewey Decimal System, there are hundreds of topics at the library in the applied arts section. In this column, it is most appropriate to discuss the Culinary Arts, as the month of November and the Thanksgiving meal have become synonymous.
True culinary artists are responsible for skillfully preparing meals that are as pleasing to the palate as to the eye. They are also required to have knowledge of the science of food. Increasingly, a formal culinary education is required for success in this field. The culinary industry continues to be male-dominated, with only one out of five chefs and head cooks being female. Over time, with more women going into the field, the ratio will adjust.
Yet, on the home front, women have predominantly been the chief cooks of the family. Although this trend has been changing rapidly, most recipes passed down from generation to generation have been from mother to daughter.
WAIT! Enough of the pedantic rambling… rather than discuss the virtues of the skill and technique required within the culinary arts:
Let me tell you about my Grandma’s apple pie…
Autumn, of course, is harvest season. Apples are abundant. Especially baking apples. My late grandmother, Rachel Davis, used Cortland or Macintosh apples to create an eastern European style apple pie. Well, it really wasn’t a pie, it was more of a cake, but we can debate that another time. Instead of baking it in a circular shape, she used a large rectangular pan.
No one could create this epicurean masterpiece like my grandmother did. Grandma Rae, as we called her, would cut the apples in a specific shape and size. She would say that her own (Russian born) mother helped her perfect the process. The recipe was not an exact formula, but the results were magnificent. When we would peek in the oven, a rectangular ring of bubbling caramel on the circumference of the pie would be an indicator that it was just about done.
Yes, the dough contained lots of eggs and oil. From what I witnessed, she used bottled lemon juice and the flour was bleached. By today’s standards, it would not be considered the most organic of ingredients. Regardless, everyone in the family would fight over the last piece. The crust was perfectly moist, the fruit was tender and there was a flawless balance of sugar, lemon and cinnamon. Just thinking about it brings to mind a sense of nostalgia. I can almost smell it cooking as I write this.
In my grandmother’s later years, I tried to write down the recipe in order to replicate it in the future. Over time, my results have been hit or miss. Why? Because simply following a recipe does not make you a culinary artist. Can a trained painter reproduce a Picasso or can a composer write a fugue in the style of Bach? With the proper training, anyone can do anything. Obviously, the original work would have more value, both aesthetically and financially. If I were to parallel Grandma’s pie to a painting, it often resembled a piece by Jackson Pollack. To my family, abstract as it appeared, it was a genuine work of art. The passion and love that went into making that pie could never be duplicated. It was worth more than money could buy.
After my grandfather passed away in 1983, Grandma Rae lost her desire to cook large meals. Three years went by without her celebrated pie. In January of 1986, I convinced her to bake it one more time. I propped a big lug of a VHS video camera onto a tripod and recorded the “process.” I’ve since transferred the videotape to DVD and distributed copies to family members. To this day, I watch that video every time I attempt to bake “Grandma Rae’s apple pie.” It’s rather helpful. Sometimes, I actually come close to baking it the way she did.
I truly believe that the Thanksgiving holiday is not “all about the food.” My grandmother would cook for several days in anticipation of the arrival of those she held closest to her heart. Patience and sincerity were the secret ingredients that went into her preparation. Unfortunately, those virtues are not available on the shelf at the supermarket. As the Davis family’s chief cook, Grandma Rae put those incredible ingredients into every holiday meal she made.
I hope you sense that this column is not just about a simple pie. Rachel Davis gave me the recipe for life. As a role model, she was consistently compassionate, generous and affectionate. Her smile lit up a room and her love for her family was immeasurable. She mentored me as I continue to mentor others.
My family and I wish all of our Around Wellington readers a Thanksgiving filled with traditions and recipes passed down from generation to generation. At the festive meal, look around you and treasure the moments. Try to eat mindfully and slowly. Take plenty of photos. Remember, you are creating memories that will be passed on for many years to come.
Live… Go… Do!
The following is an edited (3-minute) version of the video I recorded of Grandma Rae baking her pie with me on January 23, 1986. It seems like it was yesterday. Enjoy!
Top Five List For November 2013
“Art Hive Magazine is a true labor of love! We are an arts and entertainment magazine made by creative educators and art lovers. Based out of the Palm Beaches, our mission is to spread the love of the arts throughout the community by showcasing our own creative folks as well as exposing our readers to other interesting stories and art forms. From local street artists to world-renowned musicians, Art Hive magazine has something interesting for everyone. We give creativity a voice in South Florida.”
– Art Hive website
In October, I attended a performance of two one-act plays by Woody Allen at the Lake Worth Playhouse Stonezek Theater. Amongst the free print magazines available there, I picked up a copy of Art Hive and truly enjoyed their coverage of cultural arts in our county. Luckily, the magazine is also available online.
Check it out at:
2) See talented musicians perform classical music at affordable prices:
Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music Invites the Public to Four Musical Performances in November
Jon Robertson, Dean of Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music and Philharmonia Orchestra Guest Conductor, today invited the public to attend four different musical performances during the month of November. “The talented students and extraordinary faculty of the Lynn University Conservatory of Music look forward to sharing the beautiful world of music next month,” said Robertson. “We urge fans of classical music to join us on the Lynn University campus for some magnificent presentations.”
– Lynn University Press Release
November 14 – 7:30 p.m. (Thursday)
Chamber Music Palm Beach No. 3
Come join the musicians of The Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival in Boca Raton, as they partner with LynnUniversity to present their premier fall series. Continuing their two decades long tradition of varied programs and mixed ensembles, the group will perform great masterworks of composers ranging from Mozart to Stravinsky. Concerts will include several side-by-side performances with some of Lynn’s most talented students.
Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center
November 16 at 7:30 p.m. (Saturday)
November 17 at 4 p.m. (Sunday)
Lynn Philharmonia No. 3
Guillermo Figueroa, Conductor
Featuring winners of the annual Conservatory Concerto Competition.
Keith C. and Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center
Tickets: Box: $50 / Orchestra: $40 / Mezzanine: $35
November 21 at 7:30 p.m. (Thursday)
Dean’s Showcase No. 2
Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall
How to Purchase Tickets:
Tickets are available for purchase at the Lynn University Box Office, located in the Wold Performing Arts Center at 3601 N. Military Trail. Tickets also may be purchased online at http://events.lynn.edu or by phone at 561-237-9000.
The 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Set your alarm clocks! Join in the Baumel family tradition and watch the 87th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It’s the next best thing to being there.
When: Thanksgiving Day, 9 AM to Noon
Channel: Your NBC affiliate station
Macy’s has set up a terrific website that includes information on the parade’s history, games, and the names of those who will be performing in this year’s extravaganza.
See the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade link.
4) It’s harvest time! Buy local or grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables:
Williams-Sonoma has a beautiful Harvest Calendar available online. It can help you anticipate what fruits and vegetables are “in season.” If you are ambitious, gardening is an applied art we can enjoy all year round in south Florida.
Check out the calendar and click on your “zone” to see the chart of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Here’s the specific link for the “zone 8” annual harvest calendar for south Florida:
5) Research your family roots at:
A few years ago, my husband and I were curious about delving deeper into our family history. We decided to try the 14-day free trial at ancestry.com. The results were fascinating and ultimately, we paid the annual fee. Granted, the least expensive membership is $20 per month or $200 per year, but for me it was well worth it. I ended up connecting and corresponding with family members and strong new bonds were formed. The investment was priceless.
Researching your family tree is rather absorbing. We spent much more time than initially expected during the 14-day trial. Be prepared for an immersive experience. To view your options go to: ancestry.com
Another link on ancestry.com allows you to start your own family tree. This feature is free.
“Start your family tree. Organize facts. Find answers. Why start an online family tree? We think it’s not only the easiest way to organize, preserve and share your family history, but it’s also a direct link to missing information about your roots. And while accessing most of the record collections on Ancestry.com requires a paid subscription, your online family tree is completely FREE.” – ancestry.com website
To view this feature of the ancestry.com website go directly to: