Blue Ridge Mountain Views
By DIANE WARMAN BLANKS
Not long ago, the earth tilted slightly on its axis and the light changed, almost imperceptibly but definitely. Shadows are slightly longer now. The seasons are changing.
Life in a college/resort town is truly a mixed blessing. The college students came back a few weeks ago, most moving into area apartments and houses over the weekend. That Saturday night, my quiet old residential neighborhood, parts of which have probably been here nearly 100 years, was entertained by the new tenants down front, who had a party that involved an open fire on their front lawn and some kind of group chanting. (?) Meanwhile, the kids two doors down to my right saluted us all with fireworks, ending at 12:30 AM. Ho hum.
Between the late-season tourists, the summer residents (many of whom won’t go back home till November!) and the students driving around getting supplies and fast food, it’s been worth your life to try to go downtown these past few weeks. And that’s even Before the leaves turn.
The never-ending wildflower display on the bank above the house has now given itself over to Touch-me-nots (both orange and the rarer yellow), wild asters and a wealth of long goldenrod spires leaning out over the hill.
It’s time to fill the oil tank, the first of Fall’s many inevitable chores, so I called for a delivery. The truck and cheerful driver showed up yesterday. There’s very little in life that gives you as much a feeling of security as a full oil tank.
The coming of Fall always reminds me of Granny and her dried apple pies, the production of which began in autumn. She had the making of them down to a fine science, and the family always greeted the hand-sized pies, dusted with powdered sugar, with loud cries of delight.
The process started when the apples were peeled and sliced thinly into salt water so they wouldn’t turn brown. They were then put out in the sun to dry on a clean window screen, covered top and bottom with clean, old, thin dish cloths. She brought them in at sundown and put them out in the sun again the next day, continuing until they were fully dried. Then she stored them up for a cold winter’s day.
Later in the year when she was ready to make fried pies, she soaked the apples overnight, rinsed them and then stewed them up till they were thick, seasoning them with cinnamon and, I think, nutmeg and adding sugar. Sometimes, if she was in the mood, she added allspice and cloves. Granny always said that most people didn’t put enough seasoning in things.
The dough for the half-moon pies was her usual biscuit dough but with added shortening, something of a cross between biscuits and pie crust. She cut circles out of the dough, plopped a couple of heaping spoonfuls of the apples into the center of one side and folded them over, fluting the edges closed with the tines of a fork. They were fried in her huge old black iron skillet, which I still have and cherish. We couldn’t get enough of the pies, hot or cold, and they made a wonderful breakfast if there were any left over, which was seldom.
A few people still make and sell fried pies at the craft shows that are so frequent here, but they are sometimes a bit pricey, and a few make them with flattened canned biscuits (Or whomp biscuits, as some of the country people call them, for the sound the can makes when you rap it on the counter edge to open it. That one came from humorist Jerry Clower.) They’re surely not as good to me, but nostalgia may have a bit to do with that. However, a Moravian bakery in Winston-Salem makes wonderful ones–tho fruit and not dried apples–with tender, melting pastry, and for some odd reason a local drug store here sells them. It’s now on my regular route.
News at eleven,