Cherry Pie Goodbye

This past Sunday was the last day of my beloved metalsmithing class. Fortunately, the hiatus is just for the summer and classes will pick up again in October. I won't be around this summer anyway, which makes it an opportune time to take a break. To celebrate the end of the year, I wanted to bake something special and thought I would make a pie with seasonal fruit. After eating handfuls of delicious cherries in Italy last week and reading a story called "Cherry Pie" from Tales from the Expat Harem- the book I'm currently reading, I decided on attempting this quintessential cookout treat to wish everyone "iyi tatiler"(happy vacation). As with most cooking adventures, I turned to my trusted source for a recipe and found this one for Classic Sour Cherry Pie with Lattice Crust.

Fresh cherry filling
It turns out that making the pie was relatively easy- the only challenge was getting it done in time for it to bake and cool. First came the dough. I pinched the copious amounts of cold butter into the flour mixture and stirred in the ice cold water to give it its dough identity. Next came the filling. Pitting the cherries for the filling turned out to be a messy albeit beautiful undertaking. The cherries' deep red juice ran down my hands, stained the sugar magenta, and splattered on the tiled kitchen walls. In a moment of more vigorous pit removal, some even shot out as far as the floor of the next room.  Blood red drops meandered down my hand, leaving traces like festive ribbons, and the tips of my fingers took on a pinkish stain. Once the dark crimson mound I'd gathered was mixed with lemon juice, sugar, and vanilla, it was time to roll out the dough, fill the pie, and make a lattice cover. Since I was running out of time, I rushed the last few steps and popped the whole into the oven.

Lattice, done in a hurry

My small apartment was soon filled with the fragrant scent of baking buttery dough. Once the cherry filling bubbled at spat lightly like lava from a middle school science experiment, the pie was almost ready to pull out of the oven. After about five minutes, I took it out and set it to cool by the living room window, feeling very satisfied with myself and felt very 50s indulging in this cartoon cliche. Being on the 4th floor, though, there was no risk of wascally wabbits or puddy cats sneaking off with it. I did keep a watchful eye out for pigeons, though.

The end result!
Because I was running out of time, I trotted to class with the pie still lukewarm and well bundled. It had been two weeks since I'd been to class, because of the elections two weeks ago and then because of my trip to Italy. I was eager to see everyone one last time and to finish the two projects that I'd started. One of the projects was another watermelon ring that I was making for my mom. I had hoped to have it finished by the time she came to visit in Istanbul, but it wasn't possible. The other project, was a ring with a four-pronged setting. Making this ring had involved a lot of steps and a variety of new skills, including making a two leveled setting for the stone, soldering the prongs (done by our teacher while we observed), and making a tapered band. 

The class began with the usual 'hosgeldiniz'es and 'hosbulduk's, and chatter, until we settled into our work. Throughout the class, I tried to juggle finishing my mom's ring with finishing the 4-pronged ring. At one point, my teacher told me that I should choose which project I wanted to finish, since there wouldn't be time to finish both. Although I was afraid that he was right, I continued to work on both rings. I was pleased to find that I remembered the steps for the watermelon ring and that I had internalized a lot of the process, such as doming the band and soldering the bezel. When it came time for the soldering the bezel, instead of waiting for my teacher to finish what he was doing to get his full attention, I grabbed the torch and set things up, while he supervised from the corner of his eye. I lit the torch, picked up the stick of solder with the pliers in my right hand and flipped the pliers with the solder still gripped between them, so that the solder was facing down (a move that has been really challenging in the past). It all went smoothly: heat, solder, flow, done. It seems like such a small series of moves, but I remember when each was foreign and daunting. Even with these advances, my teacher still took over for some of the trickier parts, such as soldering the bezel to the band. Finishing the 4-pronged ring was mostly observation. In order to solder the band to the setting, the two pieces needed to be tied together with wire, which I did by mimicking my teacher's moves on other rings. My teacher demonstrated how to solder the two together, smooth out the inside of the setting, and finally set the stone and file down the prongs. 

After all that work, it was finally time for our 6 o'clock break. Jeremy and his cousin dropped by, since they were visiting sites around Sultanhamet and we pushed tables together to accommodate our larger group. We cut and distributed the pie and sat to enjoy each others' company on our last evening of class. As we swapped "afiyet olsun"s ("bon appetit") and "eline sağlık"s ("health to your hands"- a phrase said to the cook), one of the many rituals of everyday life here I've come to love, I felt happy to be able to share this pie with them and hoped that it could convey in a small way how much this class and their company has meant to me this year. 

Coming to Caferağa Medresesi had the power to consistently put me in a good mood and truly uplift me. Each week, I looked forward to letting down my guard and sinking into its warm embrace of friendly people, spirited Turkish chatter, which became gradually more comprehensible to me as the year went on, breaks with steaming cups of çay and shared homemade baked goods, and jewelry making, that soothed the pains of transition into this new culture. I can track my gradual transformation and growth in Turkey from my time at Caferağa. Back in October, when I started the class, I was homesick and felt lost here. My teacher gave me a Turkish name and my classmates let me sit in silence as their Turkish spun around my head. As the year progressed, they patiently let me stumble, fall, and get back up with my Turkish, and always sought to include me by translating whenever they could with bits of French and English. I had the frustrating experience of being stuck in infant levels of communication there, but always felt accepted and welcomed, still finding ways to joke and share simpler stories. Eventually and with the help of my Turkish class, the language around me became increasingly clearer and I was putting sentences together. Although I still missed home at times, I was no longer as homesick and stressed as I'd been, and found that I was genuinely enjoying being in Istanbul and looking forward to more. Whenever I left Caferağa, I felt transformed and inspired, renewed from the connection to others there and the deep satisfaction that comes from making things with one's hands. On my way home, my feet always tread a little lighter and my head was abuzz with new ideas and stories. I was in short, happier. 

Along with the personal growth from this year, I learned an incredible amount of technical craftsmanship for jewelry making in a very structured and methodical way. I have now bought most of the tools I need to embark on metalsmithing adventures at home. My teacher's approach was a slow and gradual release, from first having us observe him, to then supervising us while we replicated his movements,  and finally letting go of the reins and letting us work on our own. 

My awesome class

When we had finished with our break, my teacher waved me back into the studio. He would help me finish my mom's ring before the end of class. He took the ring and with quick and agile movements from his expert hands, he set the stone and polished the ring, along with everyone else's projects.  As we watched him polish, he turned to me and said, "Next year, you'll be doing this on your own." I was filled with new anticipation for the year to come and all the new experiences it will bring. At last, it was time to say goodbye. We wished each other "iyi tatiler"(happy vacation) and headed home. I, for one, was already looking forward to the year to come. 
Newly finished four-pronged ring

Ring for my mom, ring for me


  1. I love the tracking through time of being in Turkey and developing in the class. There is a companion guide book in this blog for people moving to new countries! The stages of living in a new country.

    I love the picture of the pie open in its first stage.

    Also, the light with you dishing the pie - this goes in my painting reference file!


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