Debra Ginsberg is the author of the memoirs, Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress (HarperCollins, 2000), Raising Blaze: A Mother and Son’s Long, Strange Journey Into Autism (HarperCollins, 2002), and About My Sisters (HarperCollins, 2004) and the novels Blind Submission (Shaye Areheart Books, 2006) and The Grift (Shaye Areheart Books, 2008). A graduate of Reed College, she has contributed to NPR’s All Things Considered, is a regular reviewer for Shelf Awareness, and works as a freelance editor. She lives in Southern California.
Debra and I share a dear mutual friend and we used to be represented by the same literary agent. We didn’t know each other until recently, though, when Facebook closed the circle. The other day she posted the below photo of a star-topped blueberry pie that she’d baked. I could tell she was passionate about pie and she gamely agreed to an interview on the topic.
Gina: Has pie played a role in any of your books?
Debra: It does play something of a role in my new novel (The Neighbors Are Watching – November 2010). Here, one of the “neighbors” is always trying to come up with these spectacular desserts, pie among them, but she’s a hopeless baker.
Gina: Why do you love pie?
Debra: What’s not to love??? Flaky crust and fruit–can you beat it? I think not! But if I were to investigate more deeply, I’d say that I’ve never really loved cake (in fact I don’t really like cake) because it’s too sweet, feels too cloying. There is something very fresh about a pie (well, a fruit pie anyway) and something so satisfying about that combination of crust and filling. Plus, I don’t eat eggs (or bake with them) and it’s quite easy to make wonderful pies without them.
Gina: Who taught you to bake?
Debra: Self taught!
Gina: What is your fondest pie memory?
Debra: My sister and I convincing my dad to go buy fresh strawberry pie and then eating it en famille. I was a teenager and we’d just moved to Oregon. We’d never had fresh strawberry pie like that before–it was a revelation.
Gina: What is your favorite kind of pie?
Debra: Cherry, if it’s made with fresh cherries. Cherries are my favorite fruit… But unless you make it yourself, it’s hard to find a fresh cherry pie, so the runner up is going to have to be apple or blueberry. Or peach. Or… you see where I’m going with this…
Gina: What is the oddest pie you’ve made, seen, or heard about?
Debra: Any one of those medieval English pies one hears about. Those people would put anything in a piecrust. Hello–four and twenty blackbirds?
Gina: Have you ever participated in or judged a pie contest?
Debra: I have not, but I think it would be great fun.
Gina: Is there a proper technique to tasting pie?
Debra: I think if you manage to not make a public spectacle of yourself, it’s all good.
Gina: What is the secret to a perfect crust?
Debra: Lots of butter, lots of chilling, lots of patience.
Gina: What personality traits make for the best pie bakers?
Debra: I think it helps to be a perfectionist and to have the desire to make people happy.
Gina: Why does pie matter today?
Debra: Pie is like home. The farther we drift into this disconnected morass of technology, the more we need the simplicity, warmth, and connectedness that pie represents.