Category Archives: pie

Interview with Author Kate Lebo about Pie and Poetry

Kate Lebo makes poems and pies in Seattle. Her writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Gastronomica, and Poetry Northwest. When Kate is not creating poems, she is hosting her semi-secret pie social, Pie Stand, around the US, teaching creative writing at the University of Washington and Richard Hugo House, and pie-making at Pie School, her cliché-busting pastry academy.

Chin Music Press recently published her debut collection, A Commonplace Book of Pie, with illustrations by Jessica Lynn Bonin. An eclectic mix of prose poems, fantasy zodiac, humor, and recipes, the book explores the tension between the container and the contained while considering the real and imagined relationships between pie and those who love it.

A Commonplace Book of Pie from Kate Lebo on Vimeo.

Gina: Please talk to me about pie as poetic muse. What is it about pie that sparks your imagination?

Kate: Pie offers a sweet structure for me to work within and push against, a whole list of pie varieties that each come with their cultural and seasonal associations, assumptions that can be turned upside down, moods that can be illustrated with food, or little known facts that can reinvigorate a pie we thought we knew. I started with pumpkin pie and, like anyone at a feast, couldn’t stop there. As the collection grew, I began to see how pie, as commonplace as it is, is a powerful metaphor for what we reveal and conceal, what we contain, how we contain it. Crust keeps the secret of its filling, but invites us to cut it open and reveal all.

And pie has a certain universal delight to it. For the same reason you have fun reading the poems, I had fun writing them.

Gina: I gather A Commonplace Book of Pie evolved through several iterations. Please tell me the history, and how you ended up publishing with Chin Music Press. Your book seems quite different than the other titles they publish.

Kate: A Commonplace Book of Pie started as a handmade zine, just one part of an otherwise ephemeral collaboration with the sculptor Brian Schoneman. Pie was our common place, and we used it in the project to make an approachable, playful sculpture. The zine gathered bits and pieces of pie lore and aphorism together, set them with recipes, and complicated things with 10 prose poems, each describing what sort of person you were if you liked a particular kind of pie. The idea was to have fun with a shared love of food, but it was also to go deeper into that food than mere enjoyment, to ask the audience to consider how food tells a story about who they are.

I continued to print and handbind the zine for a couple years after that, selling it in indie bookstores and at events. I kept writing pie poems. In part because I wanted to make poems, and the structure was there, waiting for me to fulfill it, and in part because I wanted to figure out what this project was about, why people responded to it with such energy, why I’d chosen to write poetry about something as sweet as pie. Most of the ideas I’ve mentioned here have become clear to me only through writing the full manuscript, which now has 25 poems, two master recipes for fruit pies, 5 recipes to get you going, and a smattering of quotes and pie ephemera. And illustrations. This book wouldn’t be complete without Jessica Lynn Bonin’s incredible paintings, which capture the materials and process of pie-making in a way words never could. A Commonplace Book of Pie owes its inspiration and its culmination to collaboration–with two incredible artists, and with Chin Music Press, my publisher.

While I was writing the book, I kept an eye out for presses that published beautiful, affordable books that mixed genres. When I saw Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer, which came out in 2011 on Chin Music Press, I knew I’d met my match. I pitched ACBOP to them first. Two or three weeks later, they took it! I wasn’t expecting publication to be that simple. I think our shared interests made things easy as, well, you know. We’ve worked as a team to get the book out into the world, setting up an unconventional and ambitious book tour that’s as comfortable in Whole Foods as it is in literary venues. The subject matter of A Commonplace Book of Pie is unusual for Chin Music, but the multi-genre, visual form is right up their alley.

Gina: I loved your riffs on pie personality types. Several years ago, I had the idea of a dating app or website that would match people based on their pie personality profiles. I’ll never get around to that idea, so feel free to run with it if you like. In your book, you define lots of different pie personalities, but you don’t say which one you most identify with. So, what sort of pie are you, Kate Lebo?

Kate: Ha! I’ll never tell. Okay, I’ll tell. There’s bits of me in all the poems, though none of them are about me. Sometimes I’m cherry. Sometimes I’m mud. That line about “the chocolate pie-lover would like to convince you that her height is three inches above the crown of her head”–that’s totally me. I’m trying to do that right now.

Gina: Your book trailer is charming and well done. How did you create it?

Kate: Thank you! I’ve been so lucky to work with Stringbean Productions, a film crew based in Seattle, Washington, on videos like Bliss and Taste of Pie School (you can find all our videos here). We reunited for this book trailer with the idea of weaving impromptu tales of pie personalities from complete strangers, old friends, and local personalities. We camped out in Victor Steinbrueck park on the Seattle waterfront on a hot day in July. Interviewed anyone who would stand still and say something about pie. We filmed in just about every part of town, in backyards and front yards and parks. Our editor cut the best bits together to make a short film that captured an otherwise hard-to-summarize book. There’s absolutely no way I could have made that film on my own–I’m just the idea lady. Erik, Jean, Katie, and Doran just blow me away with their teamwork and vision.

Gina: Writing Pie Contest in a Box put my in touch with the wonderfully generous pie mafia sisterhood. What’s your connection to author/pie entrepreneur Beth Howard (queen bee of said sisterhood)?

Kate: I believe we met through a Facebook group, Pie Nation, which has introduced me to a whole community of writers and bakers nationwide. In the summer of 2011, I stayed with Beth at the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa, helped out at her Pitchfork Pie Stand, and wrote part of the manuscript for A Commonplace Book of Pie. It was a dreamy week. She says “your hands are your best tools.” I couldn’t agree more.

Gina: What’s next for you?

Kate: A cookbook! Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour & Butter will be out on Sasquatch Books this Fall 2014.


Beef, Bourbon, and Roasted Tomato Chili by Hester Velmans, Plus Her Daughter’s Fabulous Pie Wedding

Hester Velmans


Berkshire Grown board member Hester Velmans contributed a delectable Beef, Bourbon, and Roasted Tomato Chili to the Share the Bounty Chili Contest. At the event, she told me about her daughter’s pie-themed wedding held at the family’s barn in Sheffield, Mass. last summer. A friend had given my Pie Contest in a Box as a wedding shower present, which of course I was delighted to hear. Here Hester shares both her chili recipe and photos of the wedding pies – guests brought some 70 pies to the celebration!


Beef, Bourbon, and Roasted Tomato Chili

by Hester Velmans

Here is the unscientific chili recipe (a pinch of this and a pinch of


(8 servings)


First, braise the beef:

1 1/2-2 lbs cuts of beef, eg. strip steaks (whole)

1 tbs olive oil

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 large roasted red pepper, peeled, diced

1 onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

1 large can crushed tomatoes

4 tbs molassses

2 tbs Bourbon

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground pepper

3 tbs ground cumin

1 tbs smoked paprika

1 tbs cayenne or chili powder

Sauté the vegetables in olive oil until soft, add other ingredients, place

beef in roasting pan and pour the sauce over. Cover with foil and roast in a

325 F oven for 2 1/2 hrs or until you can pull the beef apart with a fork.


Cool beef and then shred it with a fork into small pieces.


Second, make roasted tomatoes (can be done ahead of time):

10 ripe tomatoes, sliced horizontally into thick slices.

Olive oil

Coarse salt, pepper

A few cloves of garlic, not peeled


Place tomato slices and garlic on rimmed baking sheet, dribble with oil,

season and bake in 350 F oven 30 minutes to an hour (check!) until tomatoes are

getting caramelized. Cool, then press soft garlic out of garlic skins;

process everything (scraping up caramelized bits) either in food processor

or through a food mill.


Third, make chili:

1 or 2 tbs olive oil

2 large onions, diced,

3 bell peppers, any color, diced

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 tbs chili powder (check seasoning)

1 tsp each of dried oregano and sage

Salt, pepper to taste

1/2 cup Bourbon

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (to taste)

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 ear sweet corn, (cut corn off cob)


In a big pot sauté vegetables (except for corn), add Bourbon, cook for

about 5 minutes to reduce liquid by half, add beans, beef mixture and

roasted tomatoes, cook for about 10 minutes, then add the corn and adjust

seasoning. If too thick, add water or some orange juice.


Best if reheated the next day! Enjoy!


* * * Photos of Hester’s Daughter’s Wedding Pies * * *

Pies Ahead Stop! Sign

I am always looking for signs from the universe. Christmas Cookie Contest in a Box contributor Amy Bass saw this one in Warwick, NY this afternoon and snapped it for me. What better sign could there be?

Praise for Pie Contest in a Box

“Know any competitive bakers? This nifty kit provides everything you need—badges, ribbons, scorecards, and recipes—to find out whose pie really takes the cake.”

–Lindsay Hunt, Real Simple

“a perfect little gift” –Jackie Burrell, San Jose Mercury News

“Pie Contest in a Box offers an incredibly exciting and tasty way to determine pie favorites, while keeping the fun close to home and your heart. There is concise information to guide you through your own contest and essential tools, including pie toppers, scorecards, judge ribbons and four prize ribbons. This is a fun gift and a great way to settle a baking rivalry.” –Anne-Marie Seltzer, Arlington Advocate

“Pie contest glory! Best advice ever…” –Amy Rogers, WFAEats (and here’s a link to Amy’s essay about using the kit.)

“…In this compact little box, you will find a small handbook that packs a big punch, filled with pie-centric chapters, as well as tips and recipes from champion pie bakers (Black Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie anyone?). The box also includes 12 pie toppers, 60 scorecards, five judge ribbons, and four prize ribbons. There are tons of contest theme possibilities: fruit pies, unusual ingredient pies, single flavor pies, meat pies, or pies that use only local ingredients. A pie contest is the perfect activity for your next family-get together, office party, or a night in with friends. Create some new memories—and recipes—and enjoy a slice (or five) of pie!” –Noelle A. DeMarco, Create & Decorate

“Sounds like fun!” –The Cookbook Man, Sarasota Pelican Press

“Pie Contest in a Box: Competitive Baking with a Soul” –Dan Shaw, Rural Intelligence

“…perfect summer cottage activity. Only thing missing is the pie.” –John Tanasychuk, Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel

“Now it’s your turn to put your pie where your mouth is with this clever pie book.” –Diane Cowen and Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle

“I admit, I raised my eyebrows when I unpacked a new gift item called Pie Contest In A Box…Second reaction: Oh, so what. This could be fun. I think I’ll actually use the contents of the box — score sheets, pie toppers, and ribbons — to liven up a contest this summer for my pie-baking kids, or maybe bring it along for a summer vacation with friends. But the handbook in the box is the part that seems the most useful…” –Rebekah Denn, Al Dente

“This sounds like a really fun way to spend a summer afternoon…” –Donna Maurillo,Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Ooohh one of my FAVORITE new items! Hot off the presses…Pie Contest in a Box! It includes everything you need to host a pie contest — what a fun tradition to start for summer!” –Ann Lopatin Cantrell of Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store in Brooklyn, New York

“Gina Hyams has put together a fabulous fun book/gift: Pie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Pie Contest. There’s a great book inside, with recipes, pie history, and plenty of inspiration for gathering your friends together to see who can make the best pie. Plus, ribbons! And scorecards! This would be a great party.” –Shauna James Ahern, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

“So fun! …So, if you love pie…and parties…and contests…I think this is a fabulous kit to get you started.” –Heather,

“Let’s have ribbons fluttering from the sky to all the great pies out there!…This is a truly fun-filled package, and includes the essential tools such as scorecards, flags to i.d. the pies, ribbons to identify judges, and ribbons to award. It would make a great gift for a baker, or a kid – what fun it would be for kids to hold a pie contest this summer! Or how about a pie contest as a neighborhood block party?” –Dorothy Reinhold,

“…could be incredibly useful wherever food markets, block parties, and 4-H fairs thrive.” –Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“Invite me! To be a judge. My favorite is strawberry-rhubarb. You win.” –Jane Feltes, The Hairpin


Introducing My New Pie Website:

I’m delighted to announce my new all-pie-all-the-time website: designed with grace and flair by Deelux. In addition, I’ve launched pie outposts on Facebook and Twitter. I’m getting my ducks in a row for the June 28 launch of Pie Contest in a Box. I’ll still blog here as the spirit moves me on non-pie related topics.

July 10: Save the Date! WBCR-lp Berkshire Community Radio Benefit Anything Goes People’s Choice Pie Contest!

WBCR-lp Berkshire Community Radio Benefit Anything Goes People’s Choice Pie Contest
Sunday, July 10, 2011, 3pm
Place TBA
$5 to $10 sliding scale admission (no one turned away for lack of funds)

To celebrate the publication of my Pie Contest in a Box, I’ve decided throw a pie baking contest to benefit WBCR-lp, Great Barrington’s scrappy, spunky, fierce little community radio station. Pie and community radio have quite a lot in common. Both are ways for families and communities to unite on common ground. We may fight about politics and religion, but most everyone agrees that pie and free speech are good.

In the spirit of the all-volunteer radio station with its 80+ programmers, where both everyone and no one in charge, I’ve decided that everyone who attends will get to sample the pies and vote for the best one.

Anyone can enter any kind of pie that they like, such as: homemade pie, semi-homemade pie (store-bought crust OK), totally-not-made-from-scratch pie (like Candy Pie), farmers’ market pie (the Great Barrington Farmers’ Market will be in full swing), hardcore locavore pie (churn your own butter!), family heirloom recipe pie, vegan pie, regional specialty pie  (Southern Chess Pie, English Meat Pie), booze pie (think Whiskey and Buttermilk Pie, Slug-O-Bourbon Spiced Apple Pie), pie that is not really pie (Eskimo Pie, Whoopie Pie — just no Cow Pie), story pie inspired by the movie Waitress (“I Can’t Have No Affair Because It’s Wrong and I Don’t Want Earl To Kill Me Pie” — vanilla custard with banana; hold the banana), Turduken-style pie (pie baked inside of cake), Early 70s Women’s Lib ugly pie (dig out the vintage recipe pamphlets and explore gelatin flavors only vaguely rooted in nature), aphrodisiacs pie (fig, honey, pomegranate, etc.), or any other sort of pie you can imagine.

Enter the Pie Contest
Contestants will need to sign up in advance (by Friday, July 8th) and bring two sample pies of each variety they wish to enter (multiple entries A-OK). To enter, send me an email at ginahyams [at] that includes the type of pie(s) you’ll be entering. You will then need to drop off your pies at 2pm on the day of the contest.

Funky Apron Fashion Show
In addition, the event will feature a Funky Apron Fashion Show. If you would like to model and/or supply a fun apron for someone else to wear, please send me an email (or comment below) and we’ll figure it out.

Hope you can join us. It’s gonna be a fun time!


Interview: Joel (“Make Me Some Pie” Blog) Weiler on the Intrinsic Humor of Pie, Late-Night Diner Pie with the One You Love, and the Portland Pie Scene

Joel Weiler is the founder of the blog, Make Me Some Pie, and the Facebook page, 365 Things to Do While Eating Pie. He also “tweats” here.

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.

Interview: Pie Champ Adam Janowski on Literary Baking Adventures, the Wonder of Polish Wedding Pie, and Tips for Pie Contest Contestants

Adam Janowski’s Black Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie won Grand Prize at the 2010 Zonta Club Best Blue Ribbon Pie Contest of Bonita Springs, Florida. His prize-winning pie recipe is featured in Pie Contest in a Box. He is a school library media specialist who learned to cook from his Polish American family in Detroit, Michigan.

Adam Janowski

Gina: I understand that you enjoy recreating dishes that you discover in books. What are some of your recent literary baking adventures?

Adam: My last creation was a “Waves of the Danube” cake which was mentioned in People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. It was absolutely decadent and delicious, but very time consuming. The cake consists of yellow and chocolate layers of cake dotted with tart cherries. As the cake bakes the cherries sink down creating the effect of waves within the cake. The cake is then topped with a rich custard and a chocolate glaze!

A recipe I’ve been wanting to try is Esther`s Orange Marmalade Layer Cake from The Mitford Series by Jan Karon. I think the tartness of the marmalade will go well with the richness of the whipping cream frosting. I am currently reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Early on there is mention of a Caramel Cake and I’ve been exploring recipes for the cake on the Internet.

Maybe I am in my “Southern” phase because I recently made a Texas Sheet Cake (chocolate and pecans), a Hummingbird Cake (bananas, pineapple and more pecans) and a Double Lemon Chess Pie (lemon, buttermilk and cornmeal).

My brother told me about a Torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s Cake) that he recently ate at an Italian restaurant. It has a rich, buttery pastry filled with a lemon pastry cream, topped with pine nuts and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. That one sounds like a winner!

Gina: Is there a Polish pie tradition? Who taught you to bake?

Adam: My grandmothers and many of my aunts were really great cooks. I grew up in the Detroit area in the 1950s and 60s and our extended families were very close. We often visited relatives especially during holidays and for celebrations. Each household seemed to be known for a different specialty—Aunt Kay made the best sugar cookies at Christmas, Aunt Hattie made Angel’s Wings (Chrusciki in Polish), that were feathery pieces of fried dough dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and Aunt Sophie made the best jelly-filled doughnuts (Paczki in Polish) that are nothing like the ones you buy today. Paczki were stick-to-your-ribs doughnuts.

I can’t say that there was a real “pie” tradition in our family. My mom made a good apple pie from the neighbor’s apple trees, and my Aunt Kay made the best blackberry tarts. The wild blackberries were picked in a local woods in the morning and turned into tarts by the afternoon. I can’t recreate the fabulous taste that I remember using store-bought blackberries.

There was always fresh fruit available—rhubarb and strawberries in the spring, peaches and pears in late summer, and apples in autumn—so fruit pies were common. There would be an occasional banana cream, chocolate or lemon meringue, but no one made a fuss over them. I guess we just took pie for granted!

Gina: What’s your fondest pie memory?

Adam: Polish Wedding Pie—a plain pastry shell, plain custard, topped with a layer of strawberry pie filling and smothered in whipped cream. It wasn’t Polish but it seemed to be served at many of the weddings I attended in the late 1950s and 60s.  To me it was ambrosia—food of the gods! Polish weddings were such joyous times. One of my fondest memories was watching my father and mother dance together. They were such beautiful dancers that people would stop dancing and watch them glide across the floor.

About 10 years ago I started putting a book together that combined my memories and the recipes from my childhood—especially the Polish dishes. It took a couple of years, but I finally put it together and titled it Christmas on Florida Street: Recipes and Stories. My aunt, uncle and grandmother lived on Florida Street in Detroit and it was the scene of so many holiday feasts. Even a casual visit always included a bountiful and delicious dinner. Although I made copies for family and friends I never did publish the book. Lately I have started posting some of the stories and recipes on a blog, From My Family’s Polish Kitchen that I created.

Gina: Can you describe what it is about the process of baking that you find relaxing?

Adam: Someone suggested that I consider baking for money, but I just don’t think that I would enjoy it. I often make a complex pie that takes a long time to complete. If I had to take shortcuts to make the pie financially feasible to sell it just would not be the same. It sort of reminds me of some of the chain restaurants that feature “homemade” pie. Although the pies look good, they don’t taste “homemade” to me.

I don’t know if it is so much relaxation as satisfaction. I get such a good feeling watching a pie come together. The compliments that come my way when people ooh and ah as they sample my pies make me feel great. I rarely get to have a piece of my pie—usually I just lick off the knife! I can’t remember when I last had a disaster, maybe a pie that didn’t set as well as it should, or a bottom crust that wasn’t cooked to my standard—I hate a soggy crust, but nothing major.

This Thanksgiving I made three pies. Two were for a lady who was the winning bidder on a pie baked to order by me at a church charity auction. I was a little bit anxious as the pie price went a bit high—I don’t know how you gold-plate a pie! I ended up making a Pumpkin Chiffon Pie with a layer of caramel ganache in a gingersnap pecan crust. The pie was topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and maple-glazed pecans.

Adam's Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

I also made an Apple Crumb Pie just because she might have had guests who wanted something plainer.

Adam's Apple Crumb Pie

For my own Thanksgiving Dinner I made a Pecan Pumpkin Pie.

Adam's Pecan Pumpkin Pie

I didn’t like the recipes for a Pecan Pumpkin Pie that I found on the Internet because most didn’t have much of a pumpkin custard on the bottom. I finally made do by adapting a recipe and adding a half cup of whipping cream to the pumpkin base and carefully spooning the pecan filling on top. It was absolutely fabulous and I will make it my Thanksgiving standard!

Gina: What is your favorite kind of pie?

Adam: That is impossible to answer. I really like banana cream pie, but when I can find fresh rhubarb in the spring I like a Rhubarb Cream Pie. An Apple Pie with a crumb crust and a dollop of good vanilla ice cream is a must in autumn, and that Pecan Pumpkin pie was mighty tasty at Thanksgiving. I had never tasted a Lemon Chess Pie until I made it for the Pie Baking Contest this summer and now I can’t wait until I make it again! I do have say that my Black Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie is also mighty tempting!

Gina: How many pie baking contests have you entered and how many ribbons have you won?

Adam: I have only been entering pie baking contests the last three years.  My hometown of Bonita Springs, Florida puts on a family-style 4th of July celebration and the local Zonta Club sponsors the Pie Baking Contest as a fundraiser for their charities. The pies are judged and then sold either whole or by the slice. The first year I won a couple of ribbons, but the last two years I have won the grand prize. I think I know what the judges like—chocolate!

Gina: What’s your advice to pie contest contestants?

Adam: Find some critical judges that will sample your pie prior entering it in a competition. Ask for their suggestions. Sometimes I just observe and watch how people eat pie. Licking the plate is a good sign!

I also focus on the initial beauty of the pie. Judges are going to be rushed and will make a snap judgment in that initial moment that they see the pie for the first time. If the pie doesn’t make them go “wow” it doesn’t matter how good it tastes.

Pie Author Headshots: You Be the Judge

My daughter’s pal Peter Boyce snapped these photos yesterday. Which one of these shots says “pie”?

with glasses

no glasses

sideways glance


Drums Girls & Dangerous Pie (Brilliant Title and Book Cover)

I don’t know anything about this young adult novel beyond the fact that I love its title and cover. Here’s a review.

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