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A dark chocolate ganache with pomegranate syrup and pomegranate seed garnish, inspired by “On Foot I Wandered Through the Solar Systems” by Edith Södergran.

I recently gave a talk at Fieldston Middle School in the Bronx about books, pie, my day job in publishing, and how rewarding it can be to pursue what you love. To be sure that everyone was on the same page and knew the texts we’d be sampling in pie form, I selected a couple of poems that we could read together. In an effort to diversify and branch out from the typical canon (i.e., read someone other than an old, white, American/British dude), I drew on Haley’s knowledge of obscure international poetry. The poem that she recommended, “On Foot I Wandered Through the Solar Systems,” immediately became one of my favorites for its bold feminine courage and empathy.

Poem:

“On Foot I Wandered Through the Solar Systems”
By Edith Södergran

On foot
I wandered through the solar systems,
Before I found the first thread of my red dress.
Already I have a sense of myself.
Somewhere in space my heart hangs,
Emitting sparks, shaking the air,
To other immeasurable hearts.

(This translation done from the Swedish by Malena Mörling and Jonas Ellerström)

Notes from the Piebrary:

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to give myself an excuse to fill in the gaps in my education. Now I’ve been introduced to Edith Södergran, I wonder how I ever lived without her. Södergran was Finnish and Swedish, born and raised in Russia in the late-19th, early-20th centuries. Her parents were both social outcasts (her father’s first wife and children died, her mother had a child out of wedlock who perished a few days after birth) who clung to each other. When she was a teenager, Södergran’s father died of tuberculosis. Not long after, doctors informed her that she had also inherited the disease. After many years spent trying to slow or halt its progression, Södergran succumbed to it at the age of thirty-one.

I loved this poem before I had read anything about Södergran. It has this quality of self-assurance and self-love both tender, vulnerable, and unimpeachable that I try so emphatically to bring to my own life. That is the magic of literature, after all: to find that you are unknowingly following in the footsteps of another. To discover that, across time and distance, you are not alone.

We are immediately placed barefoot among the stars, giving the poem a cosmic quality. To me it feels cool, calm, and quiet; solitary, but not unpleasantly so. The red dress is a bold statement of womanhood, strong in its own feminine way. By saying that she has always had a sense of herself, even before coming into her adulthood, Södergran gives the impression of a seed. Imagine that seed of self, already a compact and potent little thing, blossoming into something so much greater with the help of this red dress. And who is she at her core? A heart hung alone in space, but so empowered in its empathy that it emits a powerful shaking call to other distant hearts. Hearts “immeasurable” in their love and multitude.

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Parsing This Pie:

This poem is so generous. In it I feel Södergran’s love, I feel Haley’s love in knowing how much I would adore this poem, and I feel my own love reaching out, wanting to disseminate it to all my friends and family so they know I love them too. For me, it is a potent reminder that being alone in the universe can be a centering and empowering revelation, and that solitude encourages us to draw on the well of love we have within us rather than seek to take from others. Whether you are spending this Valentines Day with a significant other, with friends, or just by yourself in the bath with a glass of wine and a good book, I encourage you to love yourself. If you reflect on your love life or on romance and find yourself feeling bitter, take a step back and put yourself first.

I used a dark chocolate ganache for this tart first to draw on some of the more stereotypical associations with Valentines Day, and then to emulate the depth and bitter-sweetness of the poem’s extraterrestrial setting. Pomegranates I chose not only for their distinct color (for the red dress), but also for their feminine associations. One of the students at Fieldston, Emma (who also took the time to write this amazing article about my visit), also pointed out that pomegranates are a symbol of joy and celebration, which is why they are consumed so frequently around the winter holidays. See, another immeasurable heart reaching out to teach me something new! God, I love poetry.

Recipe:

Crust:
-1 cup flour
-1/3 cup butter
-3-4 tbs water

Filling:
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 cup dark chocolate

Syrup:
-2 cups pomegranate juice
-1 1/4 cup sugar

Garnish:
-Half a pomegranate’s-worth of seeds

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the flour, (cold!) butter, and water together until the dough forms a cohesive, flaky ball. Roll it out on a floured surface and fit to a tart pan. Prick the bottom of the unbaked crust with a fork, line with parchment paper, and weigh it down with pie weights (or, if you don’t own pie weights, you can use uncooked beans). Blind bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are browned and the crust appears cooked through. Allow to cool.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a gentle simmer. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Pour into the cooked pie crust, allow to cool, and then refrigerate for at least two hours.

In another saucepan, combine pomegranate juice (I just used the pre-bottled kind, but feel welcome to grind up the arils yourself) and sugar and bring to a boil. As soon as it stars to bubble, back off to a low heat and allow it to actively simmer, uncovered, for about 50 minutes. The liquid will reduce and thicken. Allow it to cool before pouring over the ganache, otherwise the hot syrup will melt it back to a liquid chocolate state!

Drizzle the syrup in a galaxy-like spiral across the top (not pictured here) and top with a handful of pomegranate seeds like little stars. Share with a loved one, whomever they may be and whatever your relationship, for Valentines Day.

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