Most people are terrified of public speaking. I remember my first year of college I was warned not to take Thaddeus Sampson for speech class. Of course, I did get him and because I liked his eloquence, his style and the commanding way he said “Miss Pomone,” I didn’t drop the class. I refused to lend my ears to the negative chatter that he fails students frequently. While others dropped out because he was demanding and gave weekly vocabulary tests, forcing us to memorize words I had never heard before, such as sine qua, quid pro quo and vicissitude, I stayed because he had something I wanted. I finished the course with one of the few coveted “A’s” because I told myself, if he can do it, I can do it. I can learn to speak like him.Not that I always do mind you (I am as slangful as the rest), but if I’m in a situation that requires proper grammar and a command of words, I can do it. Mr. Sampson made sure of that and to this day, this man affects my life. He taught me how to master fear and how to master something that most people don’t master because they “hear about the fear of others” and plug into it.
It’s like pie crust. There’s a lot of chatter out there on how hard it is to make. I recently met a new friend who loves to cook, but was quick to tell me “I don’t make pastry, that’s too hard”. I was stunned, as this person has conquered a lot in their life, obstacles from many directions, yet was intimidated only by what she had “heard.”
And, I used to be just like her. I was intimidated by pie crust because I listened to the stories of other people being intimidated. I had fear because others had fear. Not because I had even tried and failed. This is the worst kind of fear a person can have. It’s the fear that many students in my freshman class of college had about Thaddeus Sampson. They were afraid of what they had heard about. They were afraid they would fail because it got too hard, but they never thought about what it would be like to succeed at something challenging.
Thaddeus Sampson shared his secret with us. He was nearly Simon Cowell honest about our presentation style and organization. But, he taught us how to organize our thoughts and give a presentation with gusto and charisma. He said that if we felt good about the words we used and we knew our subject, we could succeed, but we would have to practice. The more we could find opportunities to present ourselves, the more we could polish our skills. He said anyone could learn to give a good speech, if they knew these basics. Anyone that finished his class, finished as a better speaker and possibly even better person.
And, anyone can make a good pie crust, if they put the time in the kitchen. It takes PRACTICE. It’s a given to use nice flour and good butter and cold water. But, it takes practice to know when to stop each step and when to add more or less water. It takes practice to restrain from smearing a crust instead of incorporating the butter just right. And, when you get there, and you know you succeeded in this frightful kitchen challenge, your kitchen life is changed forever. As confidence builds on the things everyone told you were too difficult, you find you can take on anything.
And, once you’ve mastered the pastry dough, you will never throw a little left over dough away. This is how the dried pear galette was born. I had some left over from the blackberry pie crust cobbler and searched the kitchen for some fruit and only could find dried pears. I gave this a try because here in the south they make fried pies with dried apples and that gave me some inspiration and confidence to take the dried pears and make this galette.
This may be one of the tastiest desserts I’ve made so far. I gave it to Retro Rose when we met for coffee and we agreed to each take just a bite, and it was finished in a few minutes. And, until I make her another one, I’ll not hear the end of it.
What I learned from making pie crust is never listen to the fear in people. Listen for their courage. Thaddeus Sampson is currently the Dean of Communications, Humanities and the Arts Division in a Pennsylvania college. He graduated from Howard University in the late 60’s and if you know your American history, you will know he didn’t listen to fear.
Pie Crust (enough for two pies, one large cast iron pan 10 inches)
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons cream cheese
Cut butter into small cubes. Freeze. Mix flour, salt, sugar in food processor. Add butter evenly in flour mixture. Process just until you have large pea size pieces. Stream in water, slowly and stop as soon as dough forms. Flour your hands, take out dough and if it’s too wet, four each ball (make two and wrap in plastic overnight. You can make the same day, but refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Roll out, fill with dried fruit and fold up. Brush dough with milk, sprinkle with sugar.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 30 minutes or when done.