I’ve been making pastries lately. It started in Wellington; crashing at a friend’s place for the weekend on my way to the South Island, I spied a glass pie plate in the kitchen’s humble offerings. With energy to spare and a sudden insatiable desire for pie, I looked up a few recipes and headed to the grocery store. I was going to bake.
Since I’d never before baked pie I did what most people would do, I phoned my mother. She gave me all the tips I needed on how to create a perfectly crusty pastry. She didn’t need to repeat one of her standby secrets when it comes to pie-making, one that I’d both witnessed and been a beneficiary of many times before—always bake two so you can eat as much as you want of one and still have a whole one to share. When you’re as good of a cook and baker as my mother Peggy is, you rely on those unique tips and tricks.
Yesterday, though, yesterday was quiche. With over half a dozen pies and pastries under my belt since the first apple creations in Wellington, I had wanted to try something new. A Christmas potluck my friends and I had organized with anyone staying at the hostel seemed like the perfect time to try it.
Enter quiche. I love dishes I can create partially with all of the veggies I happen to have in my fridge at the time. It was a kumara (type of Kiwi sweet-potato), in-season-asparagus (remember, it’s the burgeoning summer here) and capsicum (that’s pepper for you non-kiwis) quiche. It nestled snuggling amongst some other amazing dishes that were offered.
Since it’s still technically the Christmas season—a time to be Merry—and since I like to stay positive in general, I won’t get into some of the other details of what it’s like to stay in a hostel with a bunch of 18-year-old Germans over Christmas. We’ll just say I took a picture of them all lined up at the sinks doing the dishes afterwards when it was time for everyone to clean up. A beautiful sight. Some day I’ll laugh about the rest of it.
Peach, baked in a loaf pan
Just how did I end up in a hostel? Well, they certainly aren’t my favourite places to stay, but I answered an ad for working in exchange for accommodation in exactly the town I was planning on going to next.
Since arriving three weeks ago, I got a job at a café, found a room to rent and bought a bike. I feel like I’m coming into a stride in my travels and the world is organizing around me. Tomorrow is moving day where I’ll pack together all this stuff I seem to be accumulating and head to my own room up on the hill. I’m very excited.
Sharing space with my fellow hostel-cleaners has been a blast, we’ve even been making pie together, but I will be happy to have my own room again and share a kitchen and bathroom with only two other people.
In taking the “two pie” rule to heart, I made a large apple to share and a small peach for myself. Because here’s the thing—sometimes I don’t want to share. Sometimes I want to make my own pie and eat every last bite myself. I’m grateful I have excess energy to share pies with others and I’m also grateful I know where to draw the line.
Arguably the first pie I made was the prettiest. Out of choice and necessity (I was running out of pastry) I wove a lattice top for an apple pie. Despite being weeks ago I still remember how the whole pie-making made me feel—it gave me purpose and direction. I’d just shifted out of work in Napier and didn’t really know where I going next. I knew I wanted to head south but had no idea what would await me once I got there. The hostel job popped up on a website and I texted the owner a few times between pies.
“It’s hard work,” he said.
Changing sheets and cleaning bathrooms? I’m sure my work ethic would fit in, especially with my fresh experience running a guesthouse in Montreal last summer.
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
The team that I’ve been working with has given me much in the way of familiarity and friendship. I enjoy the easy laughter of my German “twin sister” Natalie, the straight thinking of Anne from Myanmar and the enthusiastic encouragement from Alek, the Latvian who endearingly only pronounces the first two syllables of my name.
Perhaps pies have been an important symbol of connection for me. The truth is, I wouldn’t want to sit down and eat an entire larege pie all on my own. I am glad to have people to share my “Guen Pies” as my Wellington friend called them with the lovely souls I meet in my travels. Of course, only when I choose to share.