‘The Woman Upstairs’ in Two Parts: Love

Last week we focused on rebirth in Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs. We made a big ol’ loaf of panettone. The rising bread represented our rising to the challenges of the new year. Or something like that. Oh, and we didn’t get perms. That was super important.

This week, we’re talking about love. To recap, our “woman upstairs”, Nora, falls in love with the Shahids, a remarkable family consisting of Sirena the artist, Skandar the professor and their son Reza, who is in Nora’s third grade class. This love acts like a drug on Nora. She is inspired to go back to her art and experiences that superhuman euphoria and drug-like energy you feel when you are in love.

Come to think of it, love totally is a drug. Pheromones, y’all! Love is a sexy, sexy drug.

Chemical influences aside, love makes you see the world anew. Suddenly you don’t need to eat or sleep. Everything makes sense. Everything is amazing.

Of course, you have to eat sometime, though, and the food you make for lovers is important. Food is love, and love is food. All you need is love. And food. And I guess you have to pay taxes and die, too… but do you need to?

I think I have mentioned before that I know I am in love when I start daydreaming about what sort of pie I will make for someone. I like my men to eat my pie. Ahem. So I wanted to make a pie to represent Nora’s love affair with the Shahids. But what sort of pie? Well, I noticed a pattern of apples in The Woman Upstairs. Nora teaches at Appleton Elementary. She meets the Shahids when she drops a bag of apples. When Skandar encourages her to eat the metaphorical food of life she contemplates that all she wants is the “forbidden fruit”. Which I guess in greek mythology would mean pomegranates but apples are the typical representation of the forbidden. So I figured, apple pie it is!

This is a remarkably easy and remarkably delicious pie – no crust rolling, no fancy spice blends. It goes together quickly. Just the thing to feed your lover when you don’t have a lot of spare time.

Apples! How about them.

Lover’s Pie adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit December 2005 Issue

  • 3 lbs. apples, peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1-2 cups H2O
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup diced chilled butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Soak apple slices in lemon juice and enough water to cover them for ten minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a glass pie pan. Use a fork to mush the butter into the flour until lumpy. Stir in the sugar. Take a cup or two of this mixture and press it into the pie tin and up the sides. Drain the apples thoroughly and lay them into the crust. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Then sprinkle the remaining flour-butter-sugar mix on top. Put it in the oven for 45-60 minutes. When the top is brown and the apples cooked through, you are done! Voila. Excellent easy pie. Your lover will love you. You will love you. Pie is for lovers. I love you too.

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