Mrs. Gilfoyle’s Awful Apple Pies

The other day — being trapped inside by the weather —I watched the movie The Banshees of Inisherin. I’d tried to watch it once before because I like banshees. Especially Irish banshees. However I didn’t get very far because, as I’ve mentioned, I generally watch movies while I’m doing something else and if the characters in the movie are speaking in another language, say an Irish Brogue that’s thicker than mashed potatoes, I can’t always keep up and I drift onto something else.

But I’ve had at least two people tell me it’s a good flick and so I gave it another go.

First off: It’s not an easy movie to watch. Two men who have presumably known each other for a long time are at a crossroads. One of them is a fiddler who lives in a seaside cottage with his dog. The other (a younger man) lives up the hill from him with his sister and various farm animals. In the beginning of the movie, the fiddler has had an epiphany. The younger man is taking up time he needs to write the tune that is going to make him immortal.

I won’t tell you what happens in case you haven’t seen the movie but the story reminded me of Mrs. Gilfoyle, a lady who lived across the street from us when I was in second grade with her husband, Professor Gilfoyle, a colleague of my father’s. They had no children and so Mrs. Gilfoyle loved for me to come over and play dress up with her. She’d watch from her living room window as I arrived home and then would run over to fetch me. My mother had two toddlers and so was more than happy to loan me out. We’d generally “play” in the Gilfoyle’s basement where there were several trunks full of vintage clothes, shoes, and jewelry — including several tiaras which Mrs. Gilfoyle liked to wear on her “princess days.”

Every weekend Mrs. Gilfoyle baked all her neighbors a pie. Generally an apple pie. And every weekend the neighbors all said thank you very much and ate their pies. None of them had the heart to tell her that she needed to bake the pies for a whole lot longer than she did. They were raw and doughy and the apples were from a struggling tree in her backyard (orchards don’t fare well in the high desert where we lived).

In the third grade we moved to a house a couple of miles away and thereafter saw the Gilfoyles very rarely. I’m sure that made my parents very happy. Mrs. Gilfoyle was a six year old in a middle aged body and it was kind of creepy that she was married to a man with a PhD. No one said anything, of course, because in those days you just didn’t. But we all wondered.

Most of us are raised to put up with the Mrs. Gilfoyles of the world, aren’t we? Even though we may have better things to do on a weekend than gag down their raw pie dough and listen to their childish prattle, we do so anyway. However, should the artist be expected to participate in such social niceties or does art demand that he reject them? That was my take away. Of course, I may have completely misunderstood the movie! If you know the producers, don’t tell them that their movie reminded me of Mrs. Gilfoyle’s awful pies. I don’t want certain bloody objects thrown against my door.

No rain today but it’s awfully cold out there! Brrrrr.

30 thoughts on “Mrs. Gilfoyle’s Awful Apple Pies

  1. So when I read this post I was crying. Before I even started to read, I was crying. I’m sensitive these days. Maybe I understood what was to come in your words. The tragedy of Mrs. Gilfoyes who lives on our mind’s collective streets. Dying. Dying across the island strait. Dying in the homes, Dying in the story of Ireland. You can be sure of that. Just ask Joyce. Love. Duke

    1. Joyce would have loved Banshees wouldn’t he? Not so sure he would have put up with Mrs. Gilfoyle though. She lived next door to the Dean of English and he didn’t think she was at all amusing. He was sort of like the Fiddler.

  2. Your story reminds me how little we really know of some of our neighbors, even those we see or interact with regularly, as well as how little we might know about their marriages. It’s difficult to tell someone something like her pies are underbaked, particularly when the person has good intentions.

    1. I’m sure there was some sort of back story to Mrs. G. but I was a child and so if I did hear it, it meant nothing to me. But it’s hard to forget those pies because I had to eat them.

  3. I don’t know. I think there’s often a middle way that can satisfy everyone if you look for it. Did anyone ever try giving their pie another quarter hour bake in their oven before eating it? Mrs Gilfoyle presumably got pleasure from making and giving the pies, perhaps it was possible to get some pleasure from eating them? It’s just a thought.

  4. Hi Jan, I loved you review and your comparison to Mrs Gilfoyle’s apple pies. Why didn’t the recipients just rebake them? I have known some clever men to marry simple women. I have wondered about it and thought that maybe they prefer not to have to be challenged intellectually at home as well as at work. It wouldn’t work for me – I need a smart companion.

    1. Part of the ritual was to make a cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen table for a visit and to sample the pie. It would have been considered rude to put the pie in the oven in front of her! Prof Gilfoyle was a short, thin quiet man who didn’t drink. It’s been a long time but I believe she was bigger than him..

  5. I’ve heard of the movie but didn’t know its premise. I’m intrigued by how it sparked a memory of those underbaked pies. Life is such a mystery sometimes when ideas twist around in your mind– and turn out to provide insight. Or at least something to muse on: why not bake the pies a little more at home?

    1. The movie implies that the Fiddler has put up with the younger man only out of niceness but then realizes life is too short and tries to end the daily practice of chit-chatting with him. I’m sure my mother would have preferred doing many other things than spending an hour or so chatting with a woman she had nothing in common with but that was what was done back then. At least in my neighborhood. So it wasn’t about the pies so much (although I’ve never cared for pies!!)

    1. She was loved and well taken care of by her husband. I don’t remember her ever being anything but cheerful and caring. For sure he was a saint for eating those pies but he didn’t seem to mind.

  6. An interesting slice of your life, Jan.
    However, the slices of pie sound awful.
    I’m a pie baker, (can’t bake cakes or anything else, but I can bake pies).
    I’d probably pretend I ate the pie, but chuck it.

    1. Hi Resa – my parents were Depression babies and so throwing out food was the worse thing you could do. My father could eat gravel – he truly had an iron stomach!

  7. Hello, Jan! Nice to ‘meet’ you! The delightful Ally Bean sent me…thanks to her fabulous blog roll. I’m happy to have found you…your blog…especially this first post that I chose to peek at. The hubby and I are eager to watch the film…so that drew me in…but the fun story about poor Mrs. Gilfoyle and her pies? Reminded me of a neighbor who did something similar…underdone…woefully underdone cherry pies w/o sufficient sugar. Tart! Pucker-worthy! And yes…never did we utter a word about how dreadful those pies were. Mom taught me to smile and say thank you – and add a ‘yum’ for good measure. We never wanted to hurt her feelings. Big smiles! 😊

    1. Hi Victoria! Delighted to meet you as well. Without a doubt, Allie is a treasure. I will be anxious to hear your impression of the film. I think the pies gave Mrs.G an excuse to visit and chat with the neighbors and most people, regardless of whether they had something to do or not, would make the time. Cherry pies are my favorite! I’m so happy Mrs. G didn’t have a cherry tree!

      1. Such a great point you make, Jan! Our sweet neighbor was a widow and those deliveries gave her reasons to connect with families around her. I’d forgotten about that. ❤️
        So nice to meet you, too! Cheers to cherry pie (good ones!) 😘

  8. Very poignant piece. It reminds me of the couple who lived next door to us when we lived in Pinole, a lifetime ago. They were an elderly couple (we didn’t yet qualify as elderly). Our four year old daughter would wander over and just hang out with the woman (can’t even recall her name). At first our neighbor would bring her back home and we’d apologize for Jessica disturbing them but soon enough, when all parties were comfortable with the idea, our daughter would just go and – hang out. Sometimes they baked cookies which Jess brought home (not doughy at all). We moved away after a couple of years. It’s thirty years later. I drive down that street every now and then just to see how the neighborhood is doing. Hasn’t changed at all.
    I loved The Banshees. I did have to turn on subtitles to understand the dialog. I have to do that with every movie that takes place in Ireland and some that take place in GB.

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