In The Mind Of A Child – A Conversation With Ian

Saturday morning was stressful. I should have been out of the house by 8:10 am and it was already 8:25. I collected my pack with all the items needed on the field, to mark the referees who were present and for which games, to be able to contact a coach or parent at a moment’s notice. About 220 families were counting on me each Saturday morning to ensure that soccer games would go off without a hitch. And the concessions “lady” was counting on me to pick up donuts for sale.
General and special relativity, and thoughts of time and space, of dimension, were the last things on my mind. But to Ian, my 7-year-old son, who was sitting in the back seat all dressed for his 9 am soccer game, these things weighed heavily on his mind.
It all started with me making a stray remark about wishing I could drive *much* faster so that we wouldn’t be late. “What if you drove a hundred miles an hour?” he asked. I misunderstood his intent and replied that on these roads, driving that fast might get me in jail. I was thinking of the town police who regularly patrolled this area in our sleeply town, and wondering how much I could get away with this morning.
Without skipping a beat, my son replied, “If we went that fast, wouldn’t we take off?” Not really understanding where he was going, I said nothing. He continued. “How fast do you have to go to get in space?”
“Well cars can’t go that fast,” I said. He wasn’t satisfied. “What’s the fastest anyone has gone?” I answered the best I could under the present circumstances. “Well a man went faster than the speed of sound in the desert once, in a car,” I began. Ian probed further. “How fast is that? 300 miles per hour?” Honestly, at that moment I had no idea. So I guessed. “Oh it’s TWICE that,” I said. “The people who fly fighter jets reach the speed of sound.” But it wasn’t the speed of sound Ian was interested in. “So what about warp speed?” he asked. “Can rockets go that fast?” At this point I’m thinking, well I know what I would say if I were having this conversation with fellow grad students at Lehigh. But you are a 7-year-old kid. What could you possibly understand? Still, not wanting to discourage him, I tested this. “Warp speed is faster than the speed of light. This is the big mystery that scientists are still trying to solve. As far as we know, it’s not possible. As things start to go faster and faster, getting close to the speed of light, they start to shrink. Then they disappear completely. We don’t know if it’s possible to go that fast, disappear, and then come back.” Whatever was formulating in that little boy’s mind, at that moment, I would give ALL that I have to see. “How fast is that, a thousand miles per hour?” Ian asked. “Light travels at hundreds of millions of miles per hour,” I guessed again. There was a pause. “What about time?” he asked. Now that was completely unexpected. How much did he really understand about time and space, and what was it that I said that made him connect ideas in his mind, going from the concept of light going really fast to time itself? “Well time is how we measure speed,” I began, not really knowing what he was asking. “How fast does time go?” he asked. I was about to say that time is not a *thing* therefore does not travel or move from one place to another. But then I stopped. Here was a child forming his own concepts of the Universe and I was about to interfere with that process. What do we know about time? We only know it by its effect on us. Could there be a time particle? And if so, that particle could, in fact, move? Well, to be intellectually honest, all I could say to my wondering, inquisitive son, was “No one knows. In fact, you may be the one who discovers it.”

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Given the vast amount of recipes out there, here is the one I made recently that is a “keeper”. What makes it different from the rest? For one thing, the amount of fruit in my pies is significantly more than most recipes. I prefer pies with less pastry, more filling. Secondly, for thickening I prefer flour over alternatives like corn starch or tapioca when placed in a cooked pie filling. Also, this one had “just the right” tartness-to-sweetness ratio for our taste. Not too tart, not too sweet.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

INGREDIENTS
Filling:
1 cup + 3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 pound diced, fresh rhubarb
20 ounces (1 pound 4 ounces) fresh strawberries (cut larger strawberries into 1-inch³ pieces)
1 Tbsp lemon juice

pastry for a 2-crust 9-inch pie

2 Tbsp white sugar
1 egg yolk (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400° F (200 C)

2. In a large bowl combine flour and brown sugar with a wire whisk. Add strawberries, chopped rhubarb and lemon juice. Toss until fruit is well-coated. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. NOTE: recipe is best when fresh rhubarb is used. If using frozen rhubarb increase flour by 1/8 cup.

3. In 9-inch pie pan, place the bottom crust. Pour filling onto the crust. Sprinkle top of filling with 2 Tbsp sugar.

4. Form a lattice with the remaining pie pastry, cutting edges to overlap with the edge of bottom crust. Warm water may be used to seal each top piece with the outer edge. OPTIONAL: Use a pastry brush to brush egg yolk across the top of the completed lattice prior to baking. With thumb and forefinger, “pinch” around outer edge of crust to form a wave, or pleated edge.

5. Place pie dish onto a cookie sheet (for spillage) and put in oven on a lower 1/3rd rack. Reason for this is that the top browns faster than the bottom of pies. Always bake pies as low as possible in the oven. This one bakes in about 30 minutes.

6. Once top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly (end of 30 minutes), turn off oven but leave the pie IN the oven another 30-40 minutes. Remove to cool on a wire rack.

Pie crust shield

Pie crust shield

HINT: I use a “pie crust shield” about 2/3 of the way through the baking process because the edges of the crust tend to get too brown otherwise. I find this necessary with fruit pies because my pies tend to contain MORE filling than most, requiring a slightly longer baking time. The pie crust shield I use is “Mrs. Anderson’s” and is not adjustable but fits on pies of various sizes anyway.

Confession: I used a ready-made pie crust by Pillsbury. The top crust I cut into strips to form the lattice. However, after reading the ingredients I will be searching for a good pie pastry recipe. Here is what Pillsbury calls “food”.

Pillsbury Pie Crust ingredients list

Pillsbury Pie Crust ingredients list

It’s the partially hydrogenated lard bit that got me… that and the preservatives, food dyes. Though not a militant purist, I have been growing more and more concerned about the stuff going into our bodies. If my grandmother could make pie pastry from scratch in large batches and freeze it for future use, then so can I. When a good recipe is found that is “forgiving” so that small variations can still be rolled without so-called dry spots or overly sticky, it will be blogged and linked here.

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