Long ago when the earth was green, and so was I, three of us university students decided that we would be better off and have a handy party location if we rented a furnished apartment. Being bachelors, we relied on my aunt, also resident in that city, for cooking advice.

That fall, one of my roomies brought a bag of apples from home, but they were so sour both roomies agreed they must be thrown out. I hate waste, and allowed maybe I could make an apple pie, and I did.  I got instructions from my aunt, and went to work, mixing up the mortar, er, I mean dough as instructed.  Lacking the appropriate tools, like a rolling pin, I thought I would roll it out on the table, using a jar which had come to us containing home-made pickles, I thought it would be kind of neat to have a pie with the word ”Imperial” embossed in the crust.

I passed my improvised rolling pin over that glue, I mean dough, and Ka-slurp, it stuck to the jar like paint on a wall, or peanut butter on toast, you get the idea, I had to pick it off with my fingernails. More telephone consultation, “maybe you used too much flour, or not enough, maybe you need some water, I would really have to see what you are doing to know what is wrong.”  O.K.  Sprinkle some more flour and try again, and Ka-slurp, it stuck to the table this time, like paint – toast, you get the idea, I managed to scrape it off with a putty knife without scratching the table too much.

And so it went, step by painful step. Slicing up all those apples is work, too, and I figured a pie ought to be about an inch deep, so that’s how many apples I put in.  It came out of the oven looking nice and brown, well, ok, maybe a little dark, well, ok, maybe caramelized a bit, and looking a bit flat.  In fact, those apples had shrunk down so the pie filling was about as thick as the jam on your toast.  Worse, when I tried to cut it, the knife just scratched the glazed surface; it was hard enough to pave a road with.  I cut a piece by chipping a trench across it with a screwdriver, without denting the pan too badly.  I sampled the chips, and they tasted like something you might pave a road with.  Couldn’t take the piece out, the whole pie was stuck to the pan like paint –toast, you get the idea, so we couldn’t throw it out without throwing out the pan and all.

Further consultation with the aunt brought the knowledge that if you want a pie an inch thick, you need to put in at least 2 inches of apples, and maybe the apples were too green, or the wrong kind, and maybe you used too much sugar, or not enough. Maybe all that manipulating the dough made it hungry enough to suck up all the grease I put in the pan, and that’s why it stuck.  She would have to see it to know what went wrong.  We put the thing in the fridge, and after a few weeks it tenderized itself enough to get it out of the pan.  We threw out the rest of the apples.

The point is that it is really difficult to transmit how to do anything more complicated than making lemonade by telling, you really have to show me how. As anyone who has tried to assemble a present from the instructions at 11 pm on Christmas eve knows (insert screw A through hole B in part C while holding spring D under pressure etc).  So I don’t get real disturbed when I hear you can find instructions for making any kind of bomb or drug or evil device on the internet.  The chance of something that actually works being made from instructions on the internet or from your aunt is pretty slim.

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