I’m such a dork sometimes. I think that’s what makes me a good teacher.
I’ve had a lot of fun with my 3rd-4th-5th social studies class this year. We’ve been learning about the regions of the United States, which has included making detailed maps labeled with funny sounding places (Okefenokee Swamp is a crowd favorite), memorizing the states and capitals through the use of a catchy song, filming our own music video set to said song, Skyping with my parents to learn about the Northeast and the Southeast, examining Native American pottery, conducting hands-on investigations of resources from across the country, and writing and thinking about how where we live affects who we are (a question I’ve thought about a lot in relation to my own life). I gave my students their final test on the Western region of the United States this past Wednesday…and did I mention that, as of this week, the kids are out for the summer?!
Oh yeah. Oh yeah oh yeah. (I’ve still got plenty of grading, planning, and curriculum writing on my plate…but I see a definite increase of free time in my near future. As in: I see myself doing some laundry. I see myself taking Obi for more walks and writing blog posts that make no references to ancient history. And maybe sneaking off to Magic Mountain for a day.)
Anyway, back to the thesis statement about how I can be a dork. Really though, I’m the kind of teacher who makes kids groan in agony and say things like “How did you sneak MATH into this?” and “Why do you have to turn EVERYTHING into SCHOOL?” Which makes me feel very successful because I like to trick my students into learning even when they aren’t looking for a lesson. So, after I gave my kids their final test (which they took like champs, without complaining) I fed them a pie. I called it West Coast Pie. And here’s what they figured out by the time they were done eating it, with just a touch of guidance from me.
1. It was really, really delicious.
2. The filling was made up of strawberries to represent California, blueberries to represent Oregon, and apples to represent Washington.
3. I had used other ingredients that related to the Western region of the country, if not specifically the West Coast. The pie was glazed with milk and honey, representing the dairy farms and beehives that are an important part of agriculture in the West. The sugar the pie contained represented the sugarcane that grows in Hawaii, probably the coolest state in the West (if not in the entire country) in the eyes of my students. The lemon was a nod to the huge amount of citrus fruit grown in Californ-i-a. The wheat stood for the Great Plains, which lie partially in the Midwest but also spill into the Western states of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.
I told you I’m a dork. But I’m turning them too, because they honestly figured out 95% of that on their own. Promise.
As a special School’s Out treat, and so I don’t forget it, I’m sharing the recipe for the pie here.
West Coast Pie
Ken Haedrich’s Basic Flaky Pastry. 3 cups flour, 1 tbs. sugar, 1 tsp. salt. Mix together by hand. Cut a stick of butter into small pieces and add into the dry ingredients. Rub with your fingers until the butter is incorporated. Have at the ready 1/2 cup of shortening. Add into the mixture in small pieces until fully incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of cold water, a little at a time, until pastry can be packed together. Make two balls, flatten them, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate. (For a more detailed recipe instead of my paraphrase, see Ken’s book Pie.
2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced.
1 cup blueberries
2 cups sliced apples
(I had just barely this much fruit, perhaps a little less. It was just all the fruit I had in the house at 5:30 in the morning that day. You know. Feel free to use a little less or more of something.)
1/3 cup turbinado sugar, plus 2 tbsp
Juice of 1/3 of a lemon
large dash of cinnamon
2 tbsp cornstarch
In a bowl, combine the fruit, 1/3 cup of sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Allow to sit and juice for ten minutes. (You can roll out the bottom crust in the meantime and line your standard-size pie pan with it.) After the filling has been sitting, mix 2 tbsp each of cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl and add to the fruit mixture. Stir in. Turn entire filling into pie crust, wet edge around rim with water, and place rolled-out second crust on top. Press firmly around the rim to seal the two crusts together. Trim excess crust with a sharp knife and cut several vents in the top of the pie. In a small bowl, combine roughly 2 tbsp of milk with 1 tsp of honey. Mix well until honey dissolves. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the top of the pie. Bake in a 400 degree oven for half an hour, then rotate and bake for another 25 minutes. You’ll know the pie is done when the top is a nice shade of brown and you see juices bubbling. Strawberries are notorious for making pies bubble over, so you may want to use a baking dish to protect the bottom of your oven.
I loved this pie. I really did. But I think the real reason you should try this pie is because these cool kids endorse it. I would totally trust their judgement.
Okay, they’re a little nutty. But they can be trusted when it comes to pie-tasting.
They know what they’re talking about.