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Tajha Chappellet-Lanier here, thinking about my favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal—the pie.

The family story goes that my mother baked an apple pie the day I was born. She put it in the oven but someone else had to take it out—she’d gone into labor. I don’t know if that happenstance alone explains my infatuation with the dessert, but it seems like a good start.

From that point onward, pie became a tradition in our household. There were pies for birthdays and pies for holidays and pies baked explicitly so that they could be eaten for breakfast (this is another pie-related family tradition). In recent years my mother has earned some local renown for her annual harvest pie contest—a full-on judged affair with a long and constantly expanding list of superlative prizes (think: “best crust” to “most unique”).

I grew up making pies alongside my mom—learning to use my fingertips to work cold butter into the flour for the crust, careful to leave pockets of butter for that flakey crunch later. In a fruit pie the filling kind of takes care of itself—the real alchemy is in the crust. When I asked my mother what I should write about when it comes to pie, she suggested I consider the “joy” of the dessert, but also the “terror” people often feel when tasked with making a crust.

It’s true—pie can be intimidating to make. There’s no hiding when you’re only working with flour, butter and maybe a splash of ice water. Even the most experienced pie-maker will get it wrong sometimes and suffer from overworked, hard crust or (gasp!) a soggy bottom. Other times it all works out and it’s hard to believe that such transcendent, golden, flakey, savory-sweet enjoyment is such a short list of ingredients away. I think my love of pie might boil down to this: there’s something beautiful about well-executed simplicity, no matter the medium.

If there’s pie on your menu today, I hope there’s some left over for breakfast.

-Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, associate editor, tajha@mcweekly.com 

P.S. The Monterey County Gives! campaign is currently underway through Dec. 31. Today's Spotlight is the Big Sur Health Center, which is raising money to continue offering complete health care services to rural residents, regardless of their ability to pay. Learn about their important work—and that of 169 other nonprofits—in this year's campaign, and please donate to support their efforts. And you can read more about recent developments at Big Sur Health Center here.

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