Begin Again · Paley

The Poet’s Occasional Pie

Author: Paley, Grace
Book: Begin Again
Difficulty rating: Little Women/Pride and Prejudice (depending on whether you make your own crust, and how fancy you get with it.)
Deliciousness rating: Outstanding

img_4769My friend and I have a project where we try to memorize a poem every week, and recite them to each other at our regular Thursday breakfast. I’ve known this poem for a while but I only memorized it last week, and it finally pushed me to actually make the pie it mentions!

The Poet’s Occasional Alternative

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead     it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft     a poem would have had some
distance to go     days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it     many friends
will say     why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadness I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership     I do not
want to wait a week     a year     a
generation for the right
consumer to come along 
(Paley 147)

Did it measure up?
I am VERY picky about fruit pies and in terms of flavor this was everything I could have hoped! It was tart and refreshing and using cardamom rather than cinnamon gives it a much brighter flavor.
The texture of the filling was a little too dry, which is why I suggest re-hydrating the apricots a little, but overall this was a fantastic pie. Everybody did indeed like it, so I think I’ll stick to pie making and not write any poetry for the time being.

Ingredients for a 9-inch deep-dish pie:

  • 1 double-crust pie crust (if you’d like to make your own, try this recipe, but we absolutely won’t judge if you want to buy one premade.)
  • 1 cup whole fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups dried apricots, chopped
  • About 8 small tart apples, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces–I used Jazz, but whatever kind you like is fine.
  • 3/4 cup sugar (this makes a fairly tart pie–add more if you have a sweet tooth)
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon each freshly ground nutmeg and cardamom, or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Pinch of salt


Boil a cup of water and pour it over the apricots in a small bowl. Leave them to sit  while you chop the apples and ginger.

Drain any leftover liquid from the apricots.

Mix the fruit, sugar, flour, and spices in a large bowl and let them sit for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the apples begin to release their juice.


Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out the bottom crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Many thanks to guest chef Ramona for her pie crust advice and hands-on help!


Put it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.


Pour the filling in.

Put the top crust on and seal the edges. I made a lattice crust, just to see if I could, but it’s not necessary and I think it actually made the filling a little dry. It sure is pretty though!


Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, maybe more, checking to see if the top is browned and the apples have softened in the filling. If you use a glass pie dish like I did, it makes it easy to see if the bottom is cooked!
If the edges are getting too brown, cover them with foil.

Allow to cool, and serve with whipped cream. I like to add a little almond extract to the cream.

Paley, Grace. Begin Again: Collected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

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