A Pie in the Hand … by
(194 Stories)

Prompted By Mealtime

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Mealtimes in my family changed with the years. When I was a small child, Jeffrey, the neighbor boy, and I would come home from school for lunch every day, alternating between our houses. His family’s housekeeper, Panchita, made the best French toast. For dinner, my brother Allan and I ate at a tiny, bright red enamel table in the kitchen. My father worked late and believed that kids shouldn’t be at the table unless they “behaved.” I think this attitude didn’t come out of strictness or lack of love, but exhaustion and the need for quiet on his part.

A pie in the hand is worth the fond memory.

By the time I turned seven, I was deemed old enough to eat with my parents in the dining room (Allan, being just three, had to wait a few more years). I did more listening than talking, although as I got older (and Allan joined us), dinner became more interactive. My mother was a really good cook, but Allan was a picky eater, but the rule was we ate what was served. The only exception was liver, which my dad hated. And naturally, we asked to be excused from the table. In my teens, I remember my dad doing a portion of the cleaning up, which might have been unusual for the time.

As a young single adult, mealtimes became more chaotic and ad hoc. For most of my 20s and 30s, I went to the gym after work, and dinner consisted of salad and yogurt. In the early 2000s, when I met Dick, I discovered he was into home-cooked dinners, big time. For years, he did most of the cooking, we ate at the table, and then I did the cleaning up. Since I’m not much of a cook, that was fine with me. Now, because of Dick’s mobility issues, I do nearly all the cooking, too. While this isn’t my favorite activity, there is something to be said for simply sitting down to dinner together.

However, my all-time favorite memory of a mealtime comes from my early teens, when my grandmother lived with us. We had moved to a larger home, where the five of us could eat at a round, white table in the kitchen. My grandmother’s command of English was limited, so she often spoke to all of us in Yiddish (oh, how I wish now that I’d made the effort to answer in Yiddish), which my mother spoke fluently.

We were at the end of the meal, getting ready for dessert, and my mother brought a blueberry pie to the table and was cutting it into slices, during which she was having an animated discussion, a borderline argument, in Yiddish, with my grandmother. I understood quite a bit at the the time, but I have no recollection of what the discussion was about.

My grandmother extended her hand to make a point, and my mother, without any idea she was doing it, plopped a slice a blueberry pie directly onto my grandmother’s open palm. Everything stopped, we all looked, and then promptly exploded with laughter, the argument forgotten. A most pleasant ending to that meal.


Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    What a great memory, Marian. Like you, I ignored most of the Yiddish conversations between my parents and grandparents. My parents also used it to talk about things I wasn’t supposed to hear. Wish I had tried harder to understand.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Interesting how your meal styles changed as life circumstances changed, Marian. The pie slice on the open hand is hysterical! One of the best food stories I ever remember!

  3. Suzy says:

    I came home for lunch every day in elementary school too. How fun that you had a neighbor boy to eat with. Your child’s table experience was not something I shared, although we occasionally had a children’s table on Thanksgiving if we had too many people to fit at the (rectangular) dining room table, even with all the leaves in. I do, of course, love the round white table in your kitchen, which sounds like mine. And I laughed out loud at the pie being plopped into your grandmother’s hand. Great anecdote!

    • Marian says:

      We seem to have a round white table in common, Suzy, which fits the era. I was fortunate that as the second oldest cousin on either side of the family, I often made it to the adult holiday table while the younger cousins were relegated to the kids table.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    Just a lovely story about the blueberry pie, Marian; no wonder you remembered it. By the way, what is the word for “blueberry” in Yiddish?

    And, more broadly, I am glad to see yet another family that all seemed to sit down together for their meals. And, though I may be in the minority here, may I also applaud your father for hating liver.

    • Marian says:

      My brother would appreciate your applause, John, because he really hates liver. After going down a rabbit hole online, I’ve concluded that blueberries must not have grown in eastern Europe–no word comes up anywhere. On the other hand (pardon that story-related pun), the word for pie is pei.

  5. What a wonderful, funny and sweet – just like the blueberry pie – memory Marian!

    Yiddish, alas, is a dying language.
    My parents both spoke it and I pretty much understood it then, I guess mostly by the content. But now no, altho my multi-lingual husband speaks it, unusual for our generation!

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    An incident like that would have been very much par for the course in my family!

  7. Enjoyed this a lot, Marian. I’m so glad your mother and grandmother enjoyed that moment with the slice if blueberry pie in the open hand, as much as the rest of the family.

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    Made me smile that everyone laughed at the pie in the hand, instead of provoking an unpleasant scene. A great memory.

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