It appears Spring has come a couple of weeks early to Southern California… Some photos of blooms from around my home.
Excellence in appreciation.
“Sitting in front of my fireplace, basking in it’s warm glow gives me time to reflect upon the sacrifices that it has taken for me to enjoy the security of a good home, in a safe environment. I can hear the soft whisper of the snow as it caresses my window and covers the ground outside in a scintillating display of sparkling lights under the full moon. How many times have our service men and women watched this same scene from a foxhole, or camped in some remote part of the world. Thankful for the silence of that moment, knowing it won’t last long. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He/she dresses in fatigues and patrols the world restlessly, ensuring that we can have this peaceful night. Every day they give us the gift of this lifestyle that we enjoy, and every night they watch over us. They are…
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One of my favorites from Johnny Carson… Jimmy Stewart’s dog named Beau.
Well, throwing together my (somewhat edible) apple pie from scratch has become a piece of cake. Or is it pie?
While my culinary and photographic skills pale in comparison to many others – like madlyinlovewithlife, for example – I’ve been asked about my recipe so here goes.
BTW, most of this is from Cook’s Illustrated and Cathy Thomas Cooks.
Yes, I shuddered myself to death the first time I tried it. When I baked my first one, it ended up looking more like marshmallows lined with the Pillsbury dough boy’s inflated life jacket but it, well, tasted OK.
But since then, I’ve lost my fear of it and since my counter-top skills are marginal, I cheat.
While there is a recipe for a two-crust pie, my Cuisinart food processor gets overloaded with the amount of the ingredients needed. If you think California shakes during an earthquake, you haven’t experienced standing in my kitchen when the food processor chokes trying to work the ingredients which are (for each crust):
3/4 cup unbleached flour (I used Arthur’s) plus
1/2 cup held for a second add
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
6 tbsp of COLD unsalted butter sliced into six pieces
1/4 COLD Crisco all-vegetable shortening in 2 – 3 clumps
2 tbsp COLD vodka
2 tbsp COLD water
Add 3/4 cup flour, sugar and salt to food processor; pulse for a second or two to combine. Add the still cold butter and shortening, working quickly so as to keep them from softening:
Process for up to ten seconds; I like to do it in several pulses. It should look like cottage cheese curds with no uncoated flour. Scrape sides and bottom with spatula. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse up to six times. Empty into large mixing bowl.
Sprinkle in about 1/2 of the cold water/vodka, spreading it evenly. Fold over the dough mixture a bit then add remaining liquid. Keep folding mixture over until it pretty much forms a ball. It should be pretty tacky. Wrap up in plastic wrap and form it quickly into a disc about 4+” wide. Refrigerate.
Repeat for second batch. Chill for about an hour.
For the pie filling, I use my friend and bona-fide chef Cathy Thomas Cooks tried and true recipe but with a tablespoon of lemon juice thrown in:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tbsp (or to your liking) lemon juice
Pinch of ground nutmeg
As in her recipe, I use five of those luscious, good-sized Granny Smiths you can buy at Costco. If you buy them at a supermarket, you may have to use a bit more than six.
Since I feel more at home with a screwdriver instead of a knife (and because I cherish having ten fingers), I take the man’s way out of peeling. Voila!:
Frankly, if you make more than a few apple pies a year, you’d be crazy not to have one. LOL
Anyways, after peeling, core then cut into quarters lengthwise; then, cut into 1/4″ thick slices. Place into LARGE, deep mixing bowl. After doing all five, pour in lemon juice and filling mix, using spatula to coat. (Note: per Cook’s Illustrated, the browning of the cut apple slices is harmless for this short period.) Set aside and quickly before your own Little Cake Boss sticks a finger into the bowl to steal a lick.
If you’re real good at peeling and cutting, you can do this after you roll out the dough and while it is being refrigerated.
I’m not. 🙂
Rolling the Dough
The fun part – and where I get to cheat! I got the idea from Cook’s Illustrated and modified it a bit.
If the dough has been in the refer a while, you may need to let it rest for a bit; you’ll never be able to roll it out. But don’t wait too long. It needs to be cold.
Now the cheating. Instead of your bare counter top, lay out a sheet of parchment paper, about 15″ long. Dust liberally with flour. Place one disc on center, again dusting the top generously, then cover with a similar length of plastic wrap.
While it may take a little practice, quickly roll the dough out to a little more than 12″ in diameter (Hint: the plastic wrap is just a 1/8″ shy of 12″). I do like the tapered maple wood roller recommended by Cook’s Illustrated. The dough should look like this.. Well, yours will likely look better:
Place on flat baking sheet and put in refrigerator. Repeat for other crust.
Now turn on your oven to at least 450F (My Breville only goes up to 450F). Put in a baking sheet to preheat it. It helps brown the bottom of the crust in the Pyrex pie dish.
Also, whisk up one egg white for a wash.
Putting the Pie Together
You gotta work fast but this is the fun part.
The fruit of your labor. I know. Bad pun.
I use the parchment paper/plastic wrap approach as I can never flip the dough onto my roller with the scraper without it falling apart and needing dough surgery… So… I use the plastic wrap to flip the dough onto my roller like so:
Then just lay it onto your Pyrex pie dish. Gently press down on the dough onto the pie dish (especially the corners and sides) while supporting the outside portion of the dough with your other hand. REFRIGERATE once again for at least ten minutes to keep the dough chilled. Otherwise, it becomes a tacky mess.
After chilling, remove the dish from the fridge then pour in the apple slices. You will need to use your fingers to move the slices around to make a nice mound.
Working quickly, trim the excess dough off the pie, leaving maybe 3/4″ all around. Roll the edges under each other while pressing down against the lip of the pie dish. Continue around the circumference.
I’m definitely not good at it either but with your right thumb and index finger forming a V, press the dough with your left index finger into the V to “flute” it. I think that’s what you call it.
You’re almost done! Brush on the egg white onto the top and the edges. Dust with sugar if you like then make four slits radiating out from the center.
Put the pie in on top of the preheated cookie sheet then turn down the temp to 425F. Turn the pie after 35 minutes then lower the temp down to 375F. Important!
Bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes or until browned. Set onto cooling rack.
Can you hear it a-sizzlin’? From one of my earlier pies:
Cool for at least several hours and enjoy!
“Tell me the truth about death. I don’t know what it is. We have them, then they are gone but they stay in our minds. Their stories are part of us as long as we live and as long as we tell them or write them down.”
The Pain of Hope
I opened this series trying to describe the anguish a mother must have suffered – no matter what her country – knowing her son was missing in action in a battlefront so far away…
When we closed Part 5 of this series, no Imperial Japanese soldier came down off Mt. Canguipot on August 15, 1945, the day Japan officially surrendered to the Allies.¹ The US Navy and Army had also effectively sealed off any chance of retreating to other islands.
Uncle Suetaro was still on Leyte.
The date when Grandmother Kono and Aunt Michie learned of Japan’s surrender is unknown. After all, Japan and especially Hiroshima was in shambles from the fire and atomic bombings but I’m sure they learned fast enough.
But with war over and just like ANY stateside mother, Grandmother Kono waited for her son to come home… her precious son born in Seattle who was to carry on the family name in Japan.
As days passed then months, deep in her heart, she must have come to the realization Uncle Suetaro may not be coming home…but the hope was still burning inside, I’m sure.
Hope is powerful. Hoping, you believe, will change destiny. But on or about October 15, 1947, Grandmother Kono will learn that such hope can magnify anguish.
She learned her son was declared dead.
Japanese War Records
In January of this year and through the urging of Mr. Ota, my cousin Masako and her daughter Izumi journeyed to the Hiroshima Prefectural Office in hopes of retrieving some official military record or declaration of his death. Not knowing was eating them, too.
Because of the strictness of Japanese society, they were unsure the government would release Uncle Suetaro’s military record (if any) to his niece, Masako. I understand in anticipation of this, Masako had a “song and dance” prepared. She wanted to know that badly as to what happened to him.
She took along the precious, brittle 72 year old notebook with her… the notebook in which Uncle Suetaro hurriedly wrote his good bye letter to Grandmother Kono in May 1944. She told the government worker stories of her Uncle Suetaro from 75 years ago – that he was always happy-go-lucky and was the peacekeeper with his kind heart.
Perhaps the song and dance was unnecessary but she was successful. As sad as it was, she was given Uncle Suetaro’s certified death notification. She was also given a copy of a handwritten IJA service record that abruptly ended in 1943 – when the tide of war turned against Japan.
In Masako’s heart and mind, she then accepted Uncle Suetaro’s fate and resting place.
Uncle Suetaro’s Spirit Calls Out
But with the recent discoveries and stirring of beautiful memories, the spirit of Uncle Suetaro dominated her thoughts my cousin Masako said. His spirit beckoned her mightily…so much so that even with her failing legs, she determined to go “visit him”.
At eighty years of age and with ailing legs, Masako and her filial daughter Izumi journeyed to 備後護国神社, or “Bingo Gokoku Jinjya” on February 2, 2015. It is a military shrine in which resides the god-like spirits of those men who gave their young lives in defense of Japan.
Izumi wrote that she escorted Masako to offer her prayers to Uncle Suetaro at the first altar (below), believing that was a far as she could go.
Then Masako, in a stunning revelation, said, “I am going to climb to the top… Suetaro is calling for me.”
Izumi was beyond belief. Stunned.
Her mother was going to walk up the numerous steps that reached upwards towards the brave spirits. No cane. No assistance. By herself.
Masako climbed the steps, one by one. Determinedly.
Izumi wrote to me that upon reaching the top, Masako said in her Hiroshima dialect (translated by me), “Whew..! I made it! I climbed the stairs! You know, I feel Suetaro was nudging me from behind, all the time.” (「まあ～ あがれたわ～ 末太郎さんが後ろからおしてくれたんじゃろ～か？？？」)
Here is a link to a video from youtube of the shrine and stairs. It is so peaceful, you can hear Uncle Suetaro whispering. No wonder Masako had to climb those stairs:
From that day, Izumi says, Masako had renewed her life energy, all due to the call from Uncle Suetaro’s spirit.
But she did voice in reflection, “Suetaro was starving… When I think about that, dieting is nothing (meaning she can do it).”
Or, “Suetaro must be so lonely… When I think of that, I feel that we must go to Leyte to visit him and offer our prayers so he won’t be lonely anymore.”
…then, “Now I’ve got to go to the pool to strengthen my legs… so that I can walk on Leyte.”
And she means that.
She is likely going to Leyte this year.
And it looks as if Izumi and I will be going, too.
Uncle Suetaro’s Soul and Resting Place
Uncle Suetaro’s dreams of life in America died with him…shared only by him. But his spirit lives on.
Perhaps somewhere on Leyte, while surrounded by the US Army, he glimpsed up at the night sky through the dense palm fronds. Rain fell upon his unwashed face. Perhaps he was wounded and if so, perhaps shivering from a raging infection. If he lived until morning, he found each dawn worse than the dawn before. He was starving.
He knew inside his heart he was not evil… But if I am not evil, why am I here dying?
While I cannot speak to how my Hiroshima cousins feel, to me, the hard evidence tells me Uncle Suetaro did make it to Leyte as a soldier in the IJA’s 41st Regiment. With the good help from Mr. Ota, his official military records document that.
But truthfully, I don’t know if he was in the troop convoy that disembarked on October 26th in Ormoc. Records indicate that only two of three battalions of the 41st Regiment landed there; the third battalion remained on Mindanao for a short period. Yet, it appears that even that last battalion headed to Leyte in short order.
Due to Mr. Ota’s notes and as corroborated by official US Army combat records, Uncle’s 41st Regiment did fiercely engage Colonel Newman’s 34th Infantry at the end of October and that one of Suetaro’s lieutenants was killed during that violent combat.
Combat records of the US 12th Cavalry Regiment document that once again Uncle Suetaro’s unit was engaged in combat. The presence of the 41st Regiment was confirmed by dog tags, having been removed from Japanese bodies then translated by Nisei’s in the US 8th Army’s 166th Language Detachment – the same unit my dad was assigned to in 1947.
There is second hand testimony that a few survivors had assembled on Mt. Canguipot from January 1945… and “mopping up” actions by the US Army units continued. Indeed, it was far from a “mopping up” situation.
Those of you versed in WWII will know of how enemy corpses were handled – down to the use of lye – so there is no need for elaboration. If you are not familiar with how death is handled in a WWII battlefield, the only thing you need to know is it is odious.
Therefore, how he met his death will never be known…nor his place of rest uncovered with his identification intact. Perhaps there was a picture of him and his siblings in his pocket that has long since dissolved away. But dedicated Japanese citizens visit these battlegrounds in search of Japanese remains to cremate them. Maybe Uncle Suetaro has been given such an honor.
I can only hope death had a heart…that he did not suffer for so long only to endure an agonizing death in a lonely confine… but statistically, over 60% of the 2,875,000 Japanese war deaths was attributed to starvation or illness (including those arising from wounds and lack of medical care).
Indeed, Uncle Suetaro is a soul lost in a faraway jungle.
Mr. Ota, on behalf of my family here in the US, I thank you for your help in our search for Uncle Suetaro.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Part 4 is here.
Part 5 is here.
- Yes, some holdouts continued to fight the Allies after war’s official end and more lives were lost on both sides. And indeed, there were two notable soldiers who held out for many, many years. Sgt. Onoda was the longest holdout, living for 29 years in a Philippine jungle until his former commanding officer flew to the Philippines then personally rescinded his order to stay and fight but this is atypical.