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Stick a Fork in It: Ryan Lengkeek’s Apple Pie

Danica Glazier
Hinchliffe’s favorite part of making pastitsio is mixing egg yolk into the noodles before baking.

Welcome back to Stick a Fork in It, the column where we explore the foods that La Salle loves. Each week’s edition features a different dish volunteered by La Salle’s students and staff.

This week’s dish is freshman Ryan Lengkeek’s homemade apple pie. 

While apple pie is known as an American culinary staple, many Americans would be surprised to find that apple pie is originally an English dish, developed with culinary influences from France, the Netherlands, and the Ottoman Empire. One of the earliest known apple pie recipes is in The Forme of Cury, a 14th century English cookbook by Samuel Pegge.

Though apple pie may not originally be American, its multicultural influences reflect our country as the melting pot it is. Apples originate from Kazakhstan, cinnamon from South Asia, sugar stems from New Guinea, and nutmeg from the Banda Islands of Indonesia. Butter has roots in Ancient Africa and wheat is thought to have first been cultivated in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. All of these ingredients, originating from around the world, are brought together to make the pie that has become an American favorite.

For Lengkeek, however, apple pie originates in his grandma’s kitchen, where he’s been helping her make pies since he was five years old and discovered his passion for baking.

“We would always cook [apple pie] together in her kitchen. And you know, I’m sure I wasn’t much of a help then. I don’t really remember that,” Lengkeek said, laughing.

Just as apple pie is a staple in Lengkeek’s household, it’s widely viewed as America’s signature dessert — a symbol of American values, the home, and the hearth.

Apple pie was first introduced to the Americas by English settlers, who carried the classic recipe with them from England, like apple trees, which are not native to North America either.

The American colonies quickly took to the new dish. In fact, there are two different apple pie recipes included in America’s first cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, published in 1796.

Apple pie was low-effort, affordable, and adaptable, so it was easy for the dessert to remain an American favorite throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Around the early 20th century, apple pie began to cement itself as an American patriotic symbol with the help of media and news. Originating from a 1924 advertisement, the phrase “as American as apple pie” is rather ironic, knowing that apple pie doesn’t come from America at all.

The dish also got roped into politics in a 1935 squabble between the states of New York and Oregon over who produced the better apples. Oregon sent free apples to Congress to prove their superiority, and in retaliation, New York sent 75 apple pies. 

A 1902 New York Times editorial describes pie as “The American synonym for prosperity,” stating that “no pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.” Sayings like these solidified apple pie’s place in America as a representation of national pride during World War II, a time when patriotism was heavily challenged.

For these soldiers and wartime America, apple pie was a reminder of the simplicity of home and the comfort of family, and for Lengkeek, this dish also reminds him of family, thanks in large part to his grandmother. 

Lengkeek has many fond memories of baking apple pies with his grandmother on Thanksgiving. “Starting when I was five, we’d go to their house every year for Thanksgiving and she would always bake an apple pie with me,” Lengkeek said. His family eats apple pie as their Thanksgiving dessert and as an overall fall staple.

Making the Pie
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During apple season, Lengkeek tries to bake a pie every week and has a slice almost every night after dinner. At the time of his interview, Lengkeek had baked a total of seven apple pies this fall.

Lengkeek has an apple tree at his house and uses the apples from this tree to make his pies. For those who don’t have apple trees in their own backyard, Lengkeek recommends Granny Smith apples because “they’re not sweet at all, and you can really control how much sugar you want to add,” Lengkeek said.

Another reason Lengkeek prefers homemade apple pies to store-bought ones is because he gets “that sweet flavor of fruit without the sweet flavor that you get with processed sugar and in pastries,” Lengkeek said.

In order to emulate the gel-like consistency of store-bought apple pie, Lengkeek suggests boiling the sliced apples, rather than simply throwing them into the pie crust. According to him, this step makes the difference between a difficult recipe and an easy one.

“If you don’t boil it down, then it’ll be like solid apples and juice, and that can make the bottom crust a little soggy,” Lengkeek said.

In fact, Lengkeek’s favorite part of baking his apple pies is the smell from when he’s mixing and boiling the apples. “The entire household just smells like a candle,” Lengkeek said. “It’s great.”

Lengkeek prefers an oil crust for his apple pies over a butter crust because oil crusts are easier to make. He also says that oil crusts are nostalgic for him, as that is the kind of crust that his grandmother’s apple pies have.

Lengkeek would rate this apple pie as a ten out of ten. He chose this dish because of all of the meaning it holds for him in regards to family and nostalgia, but also because he thinks it’s delicious.

He prefers his grandmother’s pies to any other — even the ones he makes himself. “She bakes the best apple pie I’ve ever had,” Lengkeek said. “I love apple pie, and whenever I’m at a restaurant, I order it from the menu. I have still never found an apple pie as good as one of hers, no matter what the restaurant is.”

For prospective bakers of the Lengkeek family’s apple pie, the recipes for the pie and its oil crust are linked here. Lengkeek would rate this dish’s difficulty at a 4 out of 10. From start to finish, it takes him two hours to make his pie.

If you would like to volunteer a dish of your own, this is the link! All I will need from you is a brief interview about your personal history with the dish and a recipe. Signups are open to students and staff alike.

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