When my future husband met his future mother-in-law, she was making pies. “I only like two kinds of pie,” he said. “Oh?” said Mom, her hands suspended in midair with a lemon meringue pie ready for the oven. “Really?” I said. By which I meant, could this guy really be marriage material? If he’s a picky eater about something so apple pie as pies, then let’s get this sticky fact out on the table. “It’s true,” he said. “I only like two kinds of pie—hot and cold!” We both breathed a sigh of relief, and Mom said, “You’re in luck then because I’m making one of each.” It was September and we were at the farm at Craik to celebrate my brother’s birthday. The day was hot as an oven and the harvest was in full swing. My brother Tom was out in the field combining the wheat, but later Dad would spell him off so he could come into the house to eat a quick supper and blow out his candles to the “Happy Birthday” song. Then he would go back on the combine until well after dark. Such is the catch-22 of a farmer born during the harvest—the only time he can really celebrate his birthday is when it rains, but no farmer would wish for rain during the harvest, even on his birthday. Given a choice of birthday cakes, Tom always picked a lemon meringue pie. And since Mom is genetically incapable of serving just one kind of pie at a time, she was also making my dad’s favourite, a saskatoon berry pie served warm with vanilla ice cream. Later that evening, heading back to Saskatoon after my brother’s birthday party, I asked John how he liked his first taste of saskatoon berry pie. It was almost dark and the sun was a ball of fire on a burning red horizon. In the fields, combines the size of small houses were making their rounds by headlight. Dust and straw swirled like fireflies in the beams of light. “So,” I asked, “How did you like the pie?” “Your mom’s lemon meringue pie is mighty larapin,” he said. Larapin is the word his grandfather used to describe his grandma’s pies. She had a little café in Harvard, Illinois, where her pies were famous. John’s father Jack was a regular there, where he fell in love with the pie-maker’s daughter, Alma. Alma’s pies were mighty larapin, too. Like a good Midwestern cook, she was humble about her pies—in the face of praise she would modestly declare, “Well, it’s not as good as Grandma’s.” To which, John would agree. “You know, you’re right. You better keep practicing.” So I pressed: “How did you like my mom’s saskatoon berry pie?” “It was okay,” he said, giving his best upbeat inflection on “okay” but failing to sound quite convincing enough. “Okay?” I said. “Just okay?” “Well, it’s not my favourite.” “It’s not my favourite either,” I said. “My favourite is apple pie.” Ever since my first toothless taste of Grandma Ehman’s apfelkuchen, I have been fondly attached to any dessert made with apples, preferably homegrown. Like my dad, Grandma was a natural born picker. Her birthday fell in mid-July and she used to say the best gift she could ask for was to spend the afternoon picking saskatoons. “My favourite is apple, too,” said John. “Then I like cherry or peach or blueberry or lemon meringue.” “It seems to me,” I said, my voice rising, “that you like just about every kind of pie except saskatoon.” For the second time that day, I was seriously doubting his potential as a life mate. Can you even live in Saskatoon if you don’t like saskatoons? “Maybe it’s one of those things you have to grow up with,” he said philosophically. “Maybe there’s more to it than fits in a pie.” That got me thinking. I reflected on my lifelong relationship with the saskatoon berry. That I might even have a relationship with a berry is, I suppose, proof that what he said might be true. I had to admit, the emotional attachment went deeper than the pit of my stomach. Mere taste could not account for it. The saskatoon was part of my earliest memories, part of the fabric of my family, perhaps even part of my DNA. In the great debate over nature versus nurture, when it comes to the saskatoon berry, I confess to being under the influence of both.