Gina: What’s your background? Where are you from? How old are you? What do you do when you’re not chasing down pie?
Joel: I’m 26 and I hale from the burbs of Portland, Oregon, born and raised. I went down to Eugene for college and I’m very proud to say “Call me a Duck“… it’s been a good year. By day I’m a marketing and PR professional for a non-profit, which is actually one of the primary reasons I started the blog–it’s good to know some of the ins and outs of blogging for my line of work.
Gina: Why do you love pie?
Joel: My mom has always been an excellent pie-maker, so I was hooked early. She won the “best crust” long ago at a church pie contest. You just have to love how much pie brings people together and how passionate people get about pie. I remember growing up (and even to this day) if my mom doesn’t make lemon meringue or apple pie for a family function, there’s going to be some people who are disappointed. I’ve also always found pie humorous. There’s just something intrinsically funny about pie for some reason, and that’s why it is such a common vehicle for in comedy and pop-culture. I find that aspect interesting and I’m enjoying pointing out some of those things on my website.
Gina: What inspired you to start the blog? You began in January with 365 day framework. Are you planning to continue it next year?
Joel: Like I said, I’m in marketing and PR for a living and I wanted to explore the world of blogging more in depth. I couldn’t decide what to blog about, though, because some of the other things I’m “passionate” about are already covered extensively in the blog world (beer, coffee, other foods). Then I started noticing all of these pie shops popping up in Portland, and the idea to write about pie came to me and I thought it was relatively unique, so I went with pie! I have found, since then, that there are a lot of awesome bloggers out there who are talking pie, though (like Gina Hyams!!).
Gina: You’re too kind.
Joel: But I focus on the Portland pie-scene, too, so that remains somewhat unique. I started “365 Things to Do While Eating Pie” on Facebook as a way of promoting the blog. I used to work in real estate and thought that the “365 Things to Do in (insert city)” craze was kind of getting out of hand, so I was kind of taking a jab at that as well (seriously, go do a search for “365 Things to Do in…” on Facebook, you’ll get thousands of results, it’s crazy!) Anyways, “pie 365” really has nothing to do with pie, but it’s fun for me because it helps me keep up on the latest “viral” videos. I also think the idea of eating pie while doing funny things like action sports is hilarious. I find myself pretty humorous… I’m not sure anyone else does, but I’m enjoying it.
Gina: You’ve got a disclaimer on your site about not being a trained foodie, but when you review pie, what qualities do you personally look for? What makes the difference between a good pie and a great one?
Joel: Yeah, I really don’t know much about pie. I’m learning, and I like to think that I have good taste, but I don’t want anyone to put too much stock in my opinion. I am just one man. One man’s awful pie is another man’s treasure, right? I look at a lot of factors. I think the absolute best pies are going to taste and feel homemade. Obviously, the flavor and the texture are important. But I also look at presentation, creativity and how well a pie holds up as leftovers (pie should be made to last… that’s how pie started, after all).
Gina: What’s your fondest pie memory?
Joel: I don’t know that I have a specific one, but I remember my wife and I used to occasionally go share a slice late at night at a local diner when we were still dating. We still do sometimes. Quiet conversations over pie are the best, especially with someone you love.
Gina: What’s your favorite kind of pie?
Joel: I’m pretty vanilla when it comes to pie (and by that I mean, pies that go well with vanilla ice cream). My go-to pie is just your standard apple pie (especially my mom’s) and I also really enjoy berry pies, especially marionberry, which is a local favorite in Oregon (since the Marion variety of blackberries started in Oregon).
Gina: Why do you think Portland, Oregon, is such a hotbed of pie enthusiasm and creativity?
Joel: When you think about it, Portland was made for pie. Portland has an amazing food scene and “eating local” around here is easy because we have an abundance of farm fresh food. Pie is best with fresh ingredients and you can make a pie in Portland with 100% fresh ingredients (and many pie purveyors do). In 1902, the NY Times wrote “Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents the calendar of the changing seasons.” That hasn’t changed in Portland. Portland is also a hotbed for culinary training (try to ride the MAX train without seeing a guy wearing goofy chef pants and carrying a knife bag). There are a lot of people here who are going to push the envelope with food, and pie allows you to be creative as you want–so pie fits in well with our food culture. And, although Portland has a very active citizenry (see our bikers), we also eat for entertainment around here, so we’re not really afraid of the calories associated with pie. Oh, and did I mention that Portland has some of the best water in the world? That’s why we have the best beer, and you need good water to make good pie crust, too. And finally, pie can be a little weird, and Portland is a little weird (see the new Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein show Portlandia for details), so they’re perfect for each other.
Gina: As you know, pie has gained traction in recent months as the new “it” dessert. What do you think is sparking this trend? Why does pie matter today?
Joel: I’m actually not that excited about it. Pie was doing well as the underdog to other “trendy” desserts like cupcakes. I’m not worried about it, though, because pie has been around longer than any other pastry, so it’s always going to be around, whether people think it’s cool or not. I think the real spark for this trend lies in what I was talking about with Portland– eating local. Portland may be one of the leaders in “eating local,” but it’s a national trend and pie is a food that you can make with whatever is fresh, so eating local + pie are a natural fit.